Environment

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

Ultra-efficient ultrasound tak...
The new system utilizes vibrating piezoelectric transducers in place of heat
The new system utilizes vibrating piezoelectric transducers in place of heat
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The new system utilizes vibrating piezoelectric transducers in place of heat
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The new system utilizes vibrating piezoelectric transducers in place of heat

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.

Source: US Department of Energy via Treehugger

Ultrasonic Clothes Dryer- No Heat Needed

9 comments
CAVUMark
I have to say it... what about a rope and some solar power? Zero energy consumption.
Joseph Thomas
Wonder how dogs will react?
mhpr262
A rope and some solar power are nice, unless you live in an apartment on the 12th floor ... facing north ... in Maine ... during winter.
habakak
Fantastic. Using electricity generated from renewable sources (looking at you, wind and solar) to do this will replace the natural gas that is currently used to power existing driers. Your move, global warming.
AGL_Bob
Or Florida where the humidity is 98 and it's raining.
aksdad
It sounds great at first, but it looks like the ultrasonic transducers need to be in contact with the wet cloth, or very close to it. How does this work with a tumble dryer? Line the drum with transducers? That sounds really expensive--hundreds of dollars at least, just for the transducers. Or re-design the dryer entirely? The video shows 24 transducers drying what looks like about a 5" piece of cloth. That's not a lot of material to dry in 14 seconds. Sure it's faster than, say using a hair dryer, and a lot faster than baking it in an oven. And who dries their clothes in an oven? Seems like a poor test. The hair dryer is closer to how a tumble dryer works. It will be interesting to see if this ends up in consumer dryers or becomes a niche product.
ljaques
Love it. I hope they can get the tech to scale up inexpensively. May the project continue to be funded! / My only concern is with potential harmonics some/all humans might hear. My tinnitus is bad enough. Luckly, though, higher frequency harmonics might be easily shielded by simply closing the door to the utility room. Ropes and sun are great if you have the time, the room, yard security (I've had clothes stolen out of laundramats and off the line) and the proper weather.
Charlie_Horse
Will it kill mites, fleas, and ticks? Will it sterilize smelly sneakers? These are major functions of hot dryers.
SaysMe
They should have done a current cost comparison of a full load, just for shits and giggles... Laying out single pieces over a table, one at a time vs a tub load, in conventional drier...