Genius or charlatan? Maybe a little bit of both, but there is no disputing that Nikola Tesla, who would be 162 years old if he were alive today, had a flair for showmanship and had a major impact on the advancement of applied electrical technologies. His patents and work on polyphase AC generators, motors, and transformers became the basis of a patent sharing agreement between Westinghouse and General Electric that set the stage for making 50 cycle AC power a global standard. Holder of over 300 patents, Tesla was a lover of pigeons, a visionary who believed in wireless power transmission, and an eccentric who died in poverty.
But what if Nikola Tesla were still alive today at a time when many of his inventions and ideas have been developed beyond even his wildest imagination? We decided to find out by asking electrical engineers the following question: If Nikola Tesla were alive today, what do you think he would be working on, and why?
The answers, which range from pioneering clean, wireless power to decoding alien messages from the universe, pretty well fit Tesla’s range of interests. If you have your own thoughts on what Tesla might be doing in his lab on his birthday, please add your contribution to the comments of this post.
Meantime, here’s what the engineers have to say:
Without a doubt, if Tesla were alive today, his dream of Universal Power would be his principal modern novelty. NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Max, ZigBee, Wi-Fi are all technologies conceived from the mind of Tesla. Wireless charging, Wi-Fi charging, and NFC would certainly be something Tesla would be working to advancing. Today’s Tesla would be pushing for bigger, cleaner, more efficient wireless electrical systems. He would call for entire cities to generate and propagate their wireless energy to the masses. Wireless cars, trains, and even planes…nothing would be off limits for his dream of Universal Power, which modern technologies just might make good on.
Robert Davies, Lead Electrical Engineer
Pride Mobility Products Corp.
If Nikola Tesla were alive today, he'd be working on right now is a “Quellauder.” A “Quellauder” is something that doesn’t exist. It would be based upon the laws of physics, but viewed in a different frame of reference. It would come from the work of others that don’t understand having alternate views of reality. He’d be working on it because he saw something in his mind’s eye that were dots of reality and dots of physics that were not connected. He’d be working on connecting the dots.
Wayne Hochrein, Electrical Forensic Engineer and Master Electrician
Unified Investigations & Sciences
Today, Mr. Tesla would be working on a way to help get rid of all these wires on my desk. The idea of wireless worldwide energy would have provided power to places and people who would normally have to do without. The genius inventor would be in his office looking out at the Wardenclyffe Tower transmitting green, renewable, limitless, and free energy to the billions in the world.
Terry N Murray, Planning Engineer, Electrical
US Bureau of Reclamation, Grand Coulee Dam
Nikolai Tesla, while alive, made several contributions to power generation and distribution. Nowadays our power needs are different—with the growing prevalence of wireless devices, batteries are becoming essential technology for powering devices just as alternating current was essential at the turn of the 20th century. Battery technology has stagnated in recent times and is the major roadblock we face as we work to advance our current tech. With the plethora of possibilities Hhydrogen cell? Nuclear, even?), I think that challenge would call to Tesla, as his dreams of wireless power distribution are now materialized in the modern battery technology we use today.
Joshua Rothe, Electrical Engineer II
Haas Automation, Inc.
If Tesla were alive today, I bet he’d be working on commercializing inductive roadways for cars or trains. He’d see the struggle of battery companies working to develop stable lithium batteries and even companies now who are developing Ultra Capacitors for cars in an attempt to have more reliable, faster charging. Lithium batteries and ultra caps would just be chaff for his case regarding alternating current. It goes along with his wireless transmission of power studies, even though there’s irony with a company known for making DC-powered electric cars that’s named after him.
Calvin Wagner, Electrical Engineer
Atlas Marine Systems, Inc.
If I were Nikola Tesla and alive today, we would be working on Quantum computing. The reasoning behind this theory is that if he could solve the quantum physics permitting super-computing, this knowledge could also relate to his pet project: Wireless transmission of electricity.
Luis Rivera, P.E., Sr. Project Engineer
Energy! Just as Nikola was revolutionizing while alive, today he would be solving our planet’s energy source, distribution, and storage crises. Even more fun, he would be giving Elon Musk's Tesla Energy division a run for its money…or should we say electrons?
Brian Derrow, Sr. Electrical Engineer, Project Manager
Zebra Technologies , Custom Applications Group
If Tesla were alive today, I believe he would be working on the only thing stopping us from space travel and clean energy: A way to draw energy from gravity or high efficiency solar, a physically small battery with massive energy storage capacity, and a way of quickly charging a massive capacity battery. Because even if we had the battery and source, what good would it be if it took 100hrs to charge?
Manny Kenouryiakis, Electrical Engineer
If I Assume that he was born in the present, and never existed in the past, he would probably end up inventing many of the same things that he did historically. I doubt that computers or any electronic device would exist, however. Since Tesla was not in the correct time period to invent what would later become the foundation of modern society, we would essentially be living in his time, rather than him living in ours.
Chirag Babariya, Electrical/Controls Engineer
Accelerated Process Systems, Inc.
Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors who made a great contribution for the industrial revolution we all enjoy on today's world. If he were alive, he would probably push his ambition to provide free electric energy sources to humankind because he was the type of scientist who thought more about benefitting humankind rather than building wealth.
Julio Solorzano, Senior Mechanical\Electrical Design Engineer
I think that Mr. Tesla would be working on an efficient way to store energy so that we no longer have to rely on fossil fuels.
Ryan Ring, Senior Electrical Engineer
He would be working on transmitting free Wi-Fi signals using light and sound, probably in low frequencies that don't affect human life.
Roy Hernandez, Electrical Power Engineer
If Nikola Tesla were alive today, I think he would be working on wireless power, specifically for charging batteries. Tesla demonstrated the ability to transmit power wirelessly during his life, and while the transmission of power over long distances will always be limited by the laws of physics, advances are still being made in charging mobile devices and even electric cars wirelessly.
Heath Skelton, Electrical Engineer
Dynetics, Space Systems & Product Development Dept.
If Nikola Tesla were alive today, the conversation about electric vehicles being a majority for day-to-day transportation would not be a thought of the future. It would already be here (and maybe a thing of the past). Nikola Tesla would be pioneering a new energy source beyond that of Lithium Ion batteries or solid state batteries. We would be on the brink of powering the world exclusively through renewable storage mechanisms. Probably beyond what most of us could even fathom.
Deion Telfair, Electrical Engineer | Transportation, Telecom & Grid
I believe his works would mainly focus on perfecting the AC/DC wireless energy transfer:
Jerrin K Varghese, Electrical Engineer
Telios Pc, Building System Consulting
We would be living in a free-energy world. There would be no cables, and all energy transmission would be wireless. All cars would run purely on wireless transferred electricity. No need for gas stations, no need to stop for charging. Pollution-free world and more affordable.
Saranraj Annamalai, Electrical Engineer
At 162 years old, he would be working at home either on time travel (to be young again!) and on free or renewable energy concepts that would address global warming.
Joseph Mator, Senior Engineer
I think he would be interested in decoding RF transmission from the universe to support extraterrestrial search, maybe UFO detection technology that alerts there was one in the area. And this would be because I think he would have the belief that we are not alone. Although, I am not 100 percent sure if that is what he believed in.
Dalip Singh, Manufacturing Electrical Engineer
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