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What is a Tesla oscillator?

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Quick Answer

The Tesla oscillator was a reciprocating steam-powered electricity generator. Steam was forced into the oscillator and exited through a series of ports pushing a piston up and down at great speeds. The piston was attached to an armature that vibrated and could be attached to a generator and was used to create electricity. The device was patented by Nikola Tesla in 1893.

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What is a Tesla oscillator?
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Tesla had hoped that his device would replace the inefficient steam engines that were used at the time to turn generators, but the development of super-efficient turbine steam engines prevented this from happening. Before this, Tesla had designed various versions of his oscillator trying to perfect it, including one in which a pocket of air acted as a spring under the piston to increase its oscillation. One version used electromagnets to increase efficiency.

The Tesla oscillator, however, is best known in popular history as "the earthquake machine." After realizing that his invention would have little commercial possibility, Tesla claimed that he had experimented with the device and fine-tuned its oscillations so that it could increase the wave of flex in the wall of a building incrementally till the structure crumbled. Realizing its alleged destructive power, he ordered his staff to destroy all versions of the device.

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