If the airborne electric tower had been built as planned, the world would have been saturated with free electricity in the 1920s. Sadly, the tower was never built and Tesla’s pilot plant was destroyed for salvage in 1917. Ultimately, it never received the funding it needed and remains a mystery. Would Tesla’s Tower have worked? Let’s explore the possibility. And maybe you’ll learn something along the way!
Nikola Tesla traveled to Colorado Springs in 1899 to test his theories. His assistant was unable to provide much assistance during the test, but his engineers managed to charge the tower for one second. The blue glow of the battery powered by the tower’s electrical system lasted a second, and Tesla’s assistant then ordered him to fully electrify it. This test was a success, but what about the tower’s failure? The tower was never finished, and Tesla’s team lost a lot of money while testing it.
Besides Morgan, Tesla’s other investors did not show interest in his tower. But this wasn’t because Morgan did not like his ideas. In fact, Tesla called him “the Great Man” and referred to him as a friend. Yet most modern versions of this story portray Morgan as an egotistical banker. Those people who support Tesla’s work today may not agree. If you’d like to hear more about Tesla’s life, read this article.
Nikola Tesla possessed the power of dreams, and he used his friends in the press to promote his dreams. This is apparent from the proliferation of “free energy” books and websites on the internet. And now, Russians are raising money to rebuild Tesla’s tower, using the same misguided ideas and crackpot math. It isn’t clear what Tesla’s original tower was intended to achieve. This is where the debate lies.
Nikola Tesla’s vision was to build thirty towers around the world to transmit electrical energy. This would have allowed anyone with the proper equipment to tap into the power. And it is no surprise that Morgan had a strong interest in this project. Despite his lack of success, he was able to convince Morgan to invest $150,000 in the project. So, the question remains: Would Tesla’s tower have worked?
While Tesla’s original plan seemed to be the ideal way to distribute electricity in the world, the theory isn’t perfect. Tesla assumed the Earth would act as a conductor and electromagnetic waves would be able to travel through the Earth with minimal loss. This theory was later confirmed by a 1954 study that determined that a cavity between the Earth and the ionosphere contains electromagnetic waves that can be reflected.
But if the tower had been built as envisioned, it may have been a viable technology. In theory, it would have worked for particle-ray weapons. Tesla himself hated war, so he made sure to keep his tower’s design simple and effective. Ultimately, the tower would have prevented any attacks between countries by forming an invisible “wall of force” around it. And that is what Tesla intended.
The tower itself was never built as intended. After the tower was built, its new owner removed Tesla’s property and destroyed the structure to recoup the money he lost. But Tesla’s most impressive invention never got a chance to be tested and realized. It is a sad tale and a reminder of the pitfalls of idolatry. That said, if the tower were built today, would it be successful?
The tower embodies a popular conception of wireless electricity. A massive tower, capped by a giant coil, could beam electrical energy around the world. It would have been connected to a massive solar farm in the desert. This power would have been harvested by receiving stations. However, it isn’t working. What is the difference? That’s what’s most important in the end. So would Tesla’s tower have worked?
Wireless electricity is possible on large and small scales. However, Tesla’s wireless power would have not worked as well as he intended. The air itself is a conductor of electricity, so it would have been inefficient. Tesla never even got a chance to install the smooth metal dome that was originally planned. If the tower had been constructed as intended, it could have generated hundreds of megavolts of electricity.
In addition to the myth of his invention being a practical solution to a problem, the story also has some historical value. The first picture of Tesla with his “magnifying transmitter” was published in 1900 in Century Magazine. The photograph was double-exposure, meaning that it was taken while the device was operating. Tesla’s original “death beam” weapon was ultimately unsuccessful due to lack of funding. This picture, however, is one of the most widely-known and influential photographs of Nikola Tesla.