Good Thinking

Ultrasonic nozzle promises better cleaning with less water

Ultrasonic nozzle promises bet...
Prof. Tim Leighton and Dr. Peter Birkin with their ultrasonic nozzle
Prof. Tim Leighton and Dr. Peter Birkin with their ultrasonic nozzle
View 1 Image
Prof. Tim Leighton and Dr. Peter Birkin with their ultrasonic nozzle
1/1
Prof. Tim Leighton and Dr. Peter Birkin with their ultrasonic nozzle

In many industries, such as health care, food preparation and electronics manufacturing, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. It's important enough that huge quantities of water are used - and left tainted - in order to remove contaminants. While some groups have concentrated on creating better cleansers, a team of scientists from the University of Southampton have taken a different approach. They've created an ultrasonic tap nozzle, that allows the water itself do a better job at cleaning. The better that a given amount of water is able to clean, the less of it that needs to be used.

Developed by Prof. Tim Leighton and Dr. Peter Birkin, the nozzle generates ultrasound and bubbles, both of which travel down the water stream and onto the surface being cleaned. There, the bubbles enter nooks and crannies in that surface, removing extra material through shear forces. A high power setting can be used on harder surfaces, while a low power setting is better suited to the washing of softer things, like hands or foodstuffs.

When compared to a conventional pressure washer, the nozzle is much more efficient. It uses just 2 liters (half a U.S. gallon) of water per minute, as opposed to the 20 liters (5.28 gallons) used by a pressure washer, and 200 watts of power as opposed to 2 kilowatts. It is also gentler on surfaces, with a stream pressure less than one-one hundredth as strong as that of a pressure washer. Additionally, it generates a lot less airborne water droplets, that can carry contaminants to other surfaces.

Because the nozzle works with cold water, energy that would otherwise go into the heating of water is also saved.

Ultrasound is of course already used to clean items, in the form of ultrasonic water baths that items are immersed in. These baths can only clean objects that are small enough to fit into them, however, and leave those objects surrounded by the contaminants that have just been removed. They also cannot be used on delicate materials.

The Southampton ultrasonic nozzle has already been licensed to partners in a number of industries. A version designed for home use could be on the way.

13 comments
Todd Dunning
A classic Lefty myth is that water is \'used\', and that we must all \'save water\'. Apparently the water cycle has been left out of public school science curricula.
Manufactured guilt does not equal environmental responsibility. Greenies can have widespread support if they stay with actual concerns like disease or toxicity. These issues are real, don\'t have to be made up, and don\'t fly in the face of science like the \'water conservation\' movement.
Water\'s abundance on the planet is as limitless as its ability to clean and purify itself. It is perpetual and is reused countless times. Flushing your toilet or washing dishes with half as much may fill some with pride, but it is merely a ritual to sell greenwashed crap like this.
The fallback argument is \'...but the Third World has limited access to water!\' Which is of course solved by something called infrastructure, not \'conservation\' of our water on the other side of the globe. Duh.
VirtualGathis
@Todd While high school science describes the water cycle and an endless loop, college level science teaches us that a given area has a limited quantity of water that is returned as fresh water that is usable by people. This fact is not contingent upon a nations development. The USA, China and Russia are all running into water shortage issues and if a shortfall occurs like a drought then water becomes very short. Some parts of the USA are water scarce to start with so wasteful water usage is just foolish.
I could regale you with tales of watching our reservoirs and lakes dry up and die during drought years but in the end what matters is that fresh clean water is a resource. Even if the water source were infinite it still costs money to build the water infrastructure to provide clean drinkable water, more money to purify each gallon or liter and deliver it to the consumer. This means that saving water is saving money and who couldn\'t use a little extra money?
Karen
Todd Dunning: There are some places in the planet where water is indeed rare. Ever heard of a desert?
For those of us who are lucky enough to live in wet climates, water may not be rare, but CLEAN water is. While given time, nature can clean up after our mess, we humans have not been giving nature the adequate time and space to do so.
Oh, and solving the planet's water problems with 'infrastructure' takes another precious resource - energy.
kufu
@Todd: Tell that to people in drought areas where water restrictions apply. And it\'s not just third-world countries - we had water restrictions in Sydney that lasted for about a year or more, due to low dam levels.
Chris Maresca
@todd
Apparently, you don\'t live in California or anywhere with a worsening water shortage. It\'s easy to think that water is a limitless resource when you live in a wet place, but a lot of places are not wet.
The reality is that, once water is salty, it\'s very, very hard to make it into something humans can consume. Just ask an Israeli or anyone in Saudi Arabia how much effort that takes.
Byron Brummer
They\'ve housed it in a tin can with what looks like half of a rectal enema syringe hot glued to it. The guts are probably just pulled out of a $20 ultrasound jewelery cleaner.
While this may be a fantastic idea and really work wonders...it seems like it would also make a great and easy DIY project!
Bill Bennett
@Todd, I agree with everyone here but you, clean water is finite, keep listening to Faux news, lush limbaugh, anne coulter ad naseaum,, let me know how rinsing out your mouth with polluted water works for you, brake dust, salts, cow poop, pig farm runoff
Grunchy
It\'s a Campbell\'s Soup tin hot-glued to a funnel and connected to a hose. I guess the ultrasound vibrations conduct through the flowing water?
Wombat56
The pressure washers I\'m familiar with use 6 to 7 litres a minute, not 20 litres as stated in the article, however the 2 kW power figure is about right.
chards
@Todd
You must be getting paid to troll boards and talk political trash because that is one of the silliest things I have ever read.
Once we have vast abundant renewable energy, a large scale way to efficiently and cheaply desalinate and purify ocean water, than parts of what you wrote will be reasonable. Until then, learn something or troll elsewhere (whichever is proper.)
@Grunchy
It makes very small bubbles and propels them over the surface. I am not sure, but I would bet that the ultrasound is causing those bubbles to oscillate very quickly over the surface, turing them into micro-sponges.