Nikola Tesla
April 12, 2019
Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian American inventor, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and physicist. Tesla is best known for his work on the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity system.In late 1886, Tesla met Alfred S. Brown and Charles F. Peck, who were both experienced in starting companies and promoting inventions and patents. Once they saw Tesla's patents and other ideas they agreed to finance Tesla’s work and handle his patents. In April of 1887, the three of them formed the Tesla Electric Company. A laboratory was set up for Tesla at 89 Liberty Street in Manhattan. Tesla’s work there included improving and developing new types of electric motors, generators and other devices.At that laboratory, Tesla developed an induction motor that ran on alternating current (AC), a format that was able to move the electric current longer distances than the direct current (DC) that was in use at the time. The motor used polyphase current, an idea that Tesla conceived 5 years earlier, which generated a rotating magnetic field to turn the motor. This new electric motor, patented in May 1888, had the benefit of being self-starting, and did not need a commutator. Without the commutator, sparking was avoided as well as the high maintenance cost of continually servicing and replacing mechanical brushes.In 1893 Richard Dean Adams, the head of the Niagara Falls Cataract Construction Company, asked Tesla's opinion on what system for transmitting power generated at the Falls would be the best option. Over several years, there had been proposals and competitions on how best to utilize power generated by Niagara Falls. Two phase and three phase AC, high voltage DC, and even compressed air had been proposed by several US and European companies. Adams asked Tesla about the pros and cons of all the competing systems. Tesla advised Adams that a two phased AC system would be the most reliable. Tesla also informed Adams that there was a Westinghouse system to light incandescent bulbs using two phase AC. Based on Tesla's recommendation, a contract for building a two phase AC generating system at Niagara Falls was awarded to Westinghouse Electric. Another contract to build the AC distribution system was awarded to General Electric.

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