Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee(USA) are changing the way we do laundry—using vibrations instead of heat to dry their clothes. This new technology, called the ultrasonic clothes dryer, is expected to dry clothes in half the time and use 70% less energy than today’s products, saving American consumers money on their energy bills.This mode of drying clothes also serves energy reservation.
With support from the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office, ORNL and GE Appliances are in the process of scaling-up this technology to a press dryer and clothes dryer drum within the next five months.
Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines.
“This is going to be a game-changing technology,” said Ayyoub Momen the ORNL scientist who developed the prototype. “Clothes dryers consume a lot of energy.”
Nearly 80% of U.S. households have clothes dryers. Combined, they consume 4% of all residential electricity use, and cost Americans nearly $9 billion per year on their utility bills. This is because they rely on an inefficient process that hasn’t seen significant innovation in decades—using electricity to heat the air and evaporate the water out of clothes.
“Evaporating water takes a lot of energy,” added Momen. “That’s mainly because of the latent heating process in conventional dryers.”
The team has been working with General Electric and the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop the ultrasonic drying technology, a process that has thus far taken two years. The DOE has devoted $880,000 in funding toward the project.As of now, the researchers have created a working prototype, but the dryer won’t hit the commercial market for at least a couple of years.