This paper focuses on rotor dynamic investigation of a bladeless turbine, or Tesla turbine, for application to innovative small scale cycles. Tesla rotor consists of a shaft with several co-rotating disks with small gaps between each other. The flow through the disks creates a momentum exchange by viscous effect, motoring the shaft.

Thanks to its simplicity and low cost, the Tesla expander is attractive for energy harvesting and waste heat recovery from low/medium temperature in small and micro scale applications. Rotor assembly and its parts may present dynamic criticalities, due to their structural characteristics: to predict and ensure low vibrations during operations, numerical and experimental studies have been carried out on some prototypes.

The activity started considering a non-rotating single Tesla disk both in free and real constrained configuration: an experimental modal analysis was performed, whose results were used to validate a disk numerical model. In this case, an analytical approach with a simplified geometry assumption was considered. All methods results were correlated each other and discrepancies have been identified and analysed.

Furthermore, the investigation of a single disk rotor vibrational behaviour has been extended from static conditions to rotating conditions. Numerical analysis has been carried on taking into account the effect of gyroscopic couples and centrifugal field generated by disk rotation. In parallel, a corresponding experimental activity has been done using a dedicated test rig which allowed to perform vibrational operational measurement while the disk was in motion. Campbell diagram of the single rotating disk on the shaft has been obtained from numerical and experimental analysis allowing to identify system dynamic behaviour and to deepen aspects related to critical speeds.

Finally, a whole rotor model has been developed, allowing the characterization of the dynamic behaviour of a fully assembled turbine rotor. The developed models, validated with experiments, are powerful tools that can predict the bladeless expander vibrational behaviour at the early phase of design.

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