Ultra-efficient ultrasound takes the heat out of clothes-drying

The new system utilizes vibrating piezoelectric transducers in place of heat(Credit: US Department of Energy)

We've already seen how ultrasound can be used to wash clothes. Now, scientists from the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory – working with colleagues from GE Appliances – are looking at how it can be used to dry them. They've already developed technology that they say could make clothes dryers 70 percent more energy-efficient than they are now, while also taking half the amount of time to get the job done.

According to the Department of Energy, clothes dryers are currently responsible for 1 percent of America's total energy consumption. That's hardly surprising, considering that they're required to tumble heavy wet clothes while blowing hot air on them.

By contrast, the new system utilizes piezoelectric transducers wired to an amplifier, that rapidly expand and contract when voltage is applied. This causes them to vibrate at a high frequency, atomizing moisture from fabric as they do so. That moisture comes out in the form of a cool mist, as opposed to a blast of hot humid air.

In lab tests, the transducers were able to dry a wet piece of cloth in 14 seconds – using heat in an oven, on the other hand, took several minutes. It is estimated that it would take less than 20 minutes to dry a whole load of laundry using the new technology. As an added bonus, the system should also be quieter than conventional dryers, and produce less lint.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and GE are planning on first scaling the technology up for use in a full-size press dryer, before moving on to implementing it in a consumer-ready dryer drum.

More information is available in the video below.

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