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A team of Russian physicists want to revisit Nikola Tesla’s greatest unrealized plan, update it with modern technology, and try to make his theoretical world-wide wireless power transmission system a reality. And they’re using Indiegogo to make it happen.

Tesla, born 158 years ago today, built Wardenclyffe Tower in 1902 in New York State. He planned for the massive coil at the top of the nearly 200′ tall construction to have a resonant match on the other side of the Atlantic, precisely tuned so to allow for efficient transfer of large amounts of electrical energy over great distances using principles of the ionosphere. Initially backed by J.P. Morgan, the project only lasted a few years before funds evaporated, and while the tower stood for over a decade longer, it eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished during World War I for national safety reasons.

Wardenclyffe Tower at the start of the 20th century.

Wardenclyffe Tower at the start of the 20th century.

The modern day version of Tesla’s system, planned by Leonid Plekhanov and Sergey Plekhanov, hopes to couple an updated transmission tower to a massive bank of solar panels placed in a desert locale somewhere along the Earth’s equator. The duo states that a 100km x 100km collection of panels placed in this region would provide enough energy to power the world’s needs, but is hindered by the inefficiencies and costs of physical power lines. Their tower aims solves that problem.

But before they’re able to satisfy the incredible needs of the energy-hungry global community, the duo first plans to prove that the theory of long-distance wireless power transfer is feasible. Their updated tower, built at half the height and a fraction of the weight of Tesla’s original behemoth, is currently under construction, and they’re seeking additional financing to the tune of $800,000 through the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform. Their demonstrations are proposed to occur in the Fall of 2014, later this year.

If successful, there are still large challenges ahead — starting with producing enough solar panels to blanket an area three times the size of Rhode Island. But it will show that, with time and ongoing effort, those challenges can be overcome too. Tesla would be proud.

Mike Senese

Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with remote-control aircraft, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

Follow @msenese


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