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Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes (yahoo.com) 441

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. Called the ultrasonic dryer, it's expected to be up to five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. 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. The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibers off of clothing. Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colors will fade. While the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Energy explains in a published video that it has recently been "developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum -- setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances."
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Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes

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  • Fido (Score:5, Funny)

    by QA ( 146189 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @06:30AM (#54261949)

    Depending on the frequency, this should drive your family dog totally insane.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @06:37AM (#54261959)

    I don't get this. I actually just put a load in the washer, and in three hours it'll be done (says the thing). Then I'll hang it all out to dry.

    Now I understand that stateside having clothes hang outside is a sure sign of poverty. While I'm certainly not rich, there is no such stigma here. And anyway, clothing hangs pretty well on an indoors rack too. It just takes a night or so, which is fine by me. I even turn down the spin cycle speed to go easy on the clothes, something dryers very much don't do.

    So while this ultranoisy thing is probably wonderful progress and everything, I don't really understand the problem in the first place. Maybe I'm just not first world enough.

    • First problem: 3 hours??? Just for the wash? My "Speed Queen" old-fashioned top-load washes the clothes in around 30-40 minutes if I put it on the longest cycle. If you live somewhere that water needs to be conserved, then I guess I can understand... but holy crap that is a long time.

      Second problem: hanging laundry. It takes a lot of space and you need a relatively low-humidity place to do the drying where people aren't going to steal your stuff. In fair weather, outside is an option if you don't live in an

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @07:48AM (#54262147)

        That explains a lot why the average power consumption in the US is 11MWh compared to a meager 4-6MWh in the EU. The longer washing cycles use much less energy.

        Why would you care about how long it would take? You don't have to watch it to completion!

        • Why would you care about how long it would take? You don't have to watch it to completion!.

          You may not realize this but your clothes probably have an odor from sitting in the washing machine.

        • Why would you care about how long it would take? You don't have to watch it to completion!

          Single city dweller, eh? Or does your spouse take care of the laundry and kids?

        • by TechHSV ( 864317 )

          Why would you care about how long it would take? You don't have to watch it to completion!

          Because I need to do more than one load. If you want to do a load of laundry every day, it wouldn't matter, but my family always does a few loads in a row once a week.

        • Washing machines that run shorter cycles and don't spin as fast and driers that run a gas heater don't use very much electricity - probably less electricity than European models. My top loader uses a lot more water, though.

          What does use a lot of electricity is air conditioning. My house has two central air units, and while we don't use it much in favor of ceiling fans, we are not typical and the US has more severe weather than most of western Europe.

      • Over here in Europe 3 hours is a bit long but most washing programs take at least an hour and most hover around the one to two hours. If I run the "allergie+" (removes allergens, handy for babies and hay fever season!) program in eco-mode I believe I can push it past three hours. Having said that, my shortest program is just 20 minutes long. I do believe it doesn't spin up to 1600 RPM then but just 800 or so, so it won't get out almost dry as with the 1600RPM cycle.

        Good explanation why this is: https://w [quora.com]
      • Second problem: hanging laundry. It takes a lot of space and you need a relatively low-humidity place to do the drying where people aren't going to steal your stuff.

        1. Yes, three hours. Put laundry on, go do other things. Come back later and its done.

        2. Most folk in the US have significantly more space than in the UK, yet in the UK it's still common to hang clothes to dry. Apartment blocks typically have shared space for drying clothes. A rotating clothesline takes very little space.

        3. The UK frequently has

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @08:10AM (#54262205)

      Then I'll hang it all out to dry.

      Now I understand that stateside having clothes hang outside is a sure sign of poverty. While I'm certainly not rich, there is no such stigma here.

      In the county where I am in the US there are by-laws that prohibit hanging washing outside*, and from what I understand this is not uncommon.

        In addition there are by-laws that prohibit using furniture and items that were intended for inside use, from being used outside your house. I assume this was to stop people putting old couches on their front porch. But a few years ago a local was prosecuted for using an old bath tub as a planter in their backyard. The kicker was that you couldn't see the bath tub from the street.

      Home of the free. Yeah, right.

      * And at this time of the year you wouldn't want to hang your clothe outside. There is so much pollen flying around that your clothes would be unrecognizable.

      • In the county where I am in the US there are by-laws that prohibit hanging washing outside*, and from what I understand this is not uncommon.

        Is this a county law or a covenant of your homeowners association? I'd be very surprised to hear that an entire country has banned outdoor clothes-drying. I know there are states that have outlawed restrictions against outdoor drying.

        I'm keen to know which government body would do such a stupid thing.

      • Then I'll hang it all out to dry.

        Now I understand that stateside having clothes hang outside is a sure sign of poverty. While I'm certainly not rich, there is no such stigma here.

        In the county where I am in the US there are by-laws that prohibit hanging washing outside*, and from what I understand this is not uncommon.

        In addition there are by-laws that prohibit using furniture and items that were intended for inside use, from being used outside your house. I assume this was to stop people putting old couches on their front porch. But a few years ago a local was prosecuted for using an old bath tub as a planter in their backyard. The kicker was that you couldn't see the bath tub from the street.

        Home of the free. Yeah, right.

        * And at this time of the year you wouldn't want to hang your clothe outside. There is so much pollen flying around that your clothes would be unrecognizable.

        That sounds like an awful restriction! May I ask in which state you live?

    • Before I moved to Europe I would never dream of *cough* hanging my clothes to dry. After being here several years you just get used to it. The stuff is dry normally by morning so not that inconvenient (unless you want to wash/wear something the same day).
      • Also, doesn't sunlight, water and oxygen have some sort of chemical reaction that acts as a sort of bleach to disinfect and make clothes brighter? I know my mom used to hang the bedsheets and pillowcases outside in the summer and they always were soft and smelled nice.

    • by Parker Lewis ( 999165 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @08:39AM (#54262317)
      This comment is so self-centered. You're assuming everyone is a single person, home user, with enough space to hang clothes outside, good weather every day and no need of clothes in few hours. Can you realize that in some areas, like big cities, people lives in so tiny buildings with no space for hanging (and some buildings have rules banning this)? That several countries, weather is not friendly for this at all? That when you have a family with several members (mainly if you have more than one baby), time is really important for clothes drying? And, if you're a laundry, time and efficiency are fuc*ing important!
      • I would agree that there are some who may be challenged to dry their clothes indoors. I remember being told of a family living in a 500 square foot condo with a family of 4 in Toronto. imagine them trying to try their clothes indoors. Plus excessive heat can actually damage and shrink some clothes.. the only concern I have is if there are any long term health problems from increased exposure to ultrasonic waves. Other then that, it could be useful. Plus it is true some countries (tropics for example) may no
    • by Gryle ( 933382 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @09:14AM (#54262501)
      Driers are useful when the conditions outside aren't amenable to drying clothing. For example, if the outside temperature is below freezing, which is common in many places for at least one month out of the year, clothing turns into icicles. Or if it's raining outside. Or if it's early spring and the local farmers are spreading manure in their fields in preparation for the spring harvest, and you don't want your clothing to smell like manure after a few hours outside. (For the record, I have no objection to living near farmers who use manure. I just keep my windows closed at certain times of the day and don't hang my laundry out to dry.)

      As for interior, my current apartment doesn't have room for me to put a drying rack anywhere that I won't trip over it.

      There are valid reasons for someone to own a drier and not hang their clothing outside.
    • Many people have neither an outside, nor an inside suitably large enough for hanging a rack with cloths. Hell many don't even have space for a separate drier and buy the all in one units.

    • Long ago, I didn't have a dryer. I had clotheslines outside and in the basement. It took a long time to dry in the basement because of the humidity, and sometimes the clothes smelled. It took even longer to dry outside because when I hung them out, it would rain! If it didn't the clothes would smell from the bird droppings!

      Needless to say, I much prefer the dryer.

    • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:41AM (#54262937) Homepage
      If you make $50,000 a year at a 2000 hour per year job, you make $25 per hour, and let's say after tax that's... maybe $18 an hour. That's somewhat typical. I'll be generous and say it only takes you an extra 10 minutes to hang a load and go get it off the line later. That's a sixth of an hour, which should be worth $3 to you in after-tax income. I happen to have an energy monitor installed at my panel, and I can tell you that it takes less than 25 cents of electricity to dry a load. Obviously this varies by where you live, but it's certainly going to be less than $1. Much less than that if you use a gas dryer. We do at least 4 loads a week, typically 5 as we're a family of 5, so that's a savings of around $10 per week, so over $500 per year in time savings. My electric dryer is over 15 years old and it's a very basic two-cycle with moisture sensor type, so probably cost less than $500 new. I think it's a no-brainer to use a clothes dryer.
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:54AM (#54263035)
      I've done it all three ways - hanging outdoors, hanging indoors, and a dryer. The dryer by far produces the best results. Most clothes come out not needing ironing. And in Winter, the energy used by the dryer to produce heat also heats your home so its energy use is not entirely wasteful. (In Summer you just close the laundry room door so the extra heat doesn't add to your air conditioning bill).

      Hanging outdoors is second best, but results in crinkled clothes which need ironing (eliminating a good chunk of the energy savings of not using a dryer since you dry everything at once, but iron one at a time). If you've got a family of 4, it takes a lot of space. That forces you to wash/dry in multiple small loads instead of a few big ones, which wastes more energy and requires more labor. And of course weather and particulate matter (pollen, smog) can dirty your "clean" clothes before you've even worn them.

      Hanging indoors is worst. All the problems of hanging outdoors, but less space so more loads, more crinkling since you typically don't use clothespins to stretch the clothes out, longer drying time, and picks up household odors. It also increases the humidity of the air indoors, which cools the air so increases your heating bill in the Winter. In Summer, if you're in a low-humidity environment (desert) this cooling can be helpful; but in high-humidity climates it just increases your air conditioning bill because humid air feels hotter (sweating is less effective) forcing you to run the air conditioner more.

      But overall, I'd say the biggest factor is reduction of labor. Instead of taking 15-30 minutes clipping everything to the line or rack, you just shove all the clothes into the dryer in 1 minute, turn it on, and go do something else. (Unloading time is about the same for both since you have to fold the clothes.)
  • by magusxxx ( 751600 ) <magusxxx_2000 AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @07:00AM (#54262005)
    They had a commercial with several celebrities showing energy efficient appliances. "Which will be available soon." Jo Anne Worley proudly displayed a washer that worked with sound waves. Hence, not needing a dryer or detergent. Which was funny considering how many different detergents she did ads for. Whatever happened to that 'modern' marvel?
    • Ultrasonic clothes washers were never a truly efficient, marketable product. Soft materials are really good at absorbing sound waves. So when you subject a a tank full of sound absorbing material, with sound waves, not a whole lot happens unless you are talking about ridiculous, non-home friendly energy levels.
  • Cool (Score:4, Funny)

    by s_p_oneil ( 795792 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @07:09AM (#54262037) Homepage

    Cool... cause it's not hot... Yes, I know. I can't resist, no matter how terrible the joke.

  • ... my clothes are going to be dry any minute now.

  • It was stated it consumes less energy, does not produce unnecessary heat.. I get you are fine with your current machine, but why shouldn't we improve what we have?
    • It was stated it consumes less energy, does not produce unnecessary heat.. I get you are fine with your current machine, but why shouldn't we improve what we have?

      We should look to improve on what we have.

      The problem is often how we go about introducing it. This will likely be a considerable disruptive move within the industry that has made traditional heat-based machines for decades now. A monopoly driven into the industry secured by patents may not prove to be a benefit for all those employed in the industry. For consumers, neither will a $5000 price tag.

      • This will likely be a considerable disruptive move within the industry that has made traditional heat-based machines for decades now. A monopoly driven into the industry secured by patents may not prove to be a benefit for all those employed in the industry. For consumers, neither will a $5000 price tag.

        Good grief, listen to yourself. How can a $5000 product be a "disruptive force" competing with products costing $200 and doing the same thing?

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @07:11AM (#54262045) Homepage

    even more efficient. OK: it doesn't work all year round where I live, so in cool months I hang my clothes on a drying rack in a spare room.

  • Haier is a Chinese company that bought GE Appliances last year, they still have plants in the U.S. There might be some American appliance makers left, but they all have foreign manufacturing facilities.

  • by spaceman375 ( 780812 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @08:52AM (#54262389)

    This will cut down on house fires, which is certainly good.

    It's also progress towards something I've wanted for decades: An automatic closet. When I get undressed I want to just toss my clothes at the closet and have it launder, dry, and fold or hang them as appropriate, hopefully doing it quietly enough to not bother my sleep.

    I actually don't mind the cleaning and drying part - just a robot to put them away would be awesome.

  • by PuddleBoy ( 544111 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @08:57AM (#54262413)

    So I wash my clothes, then run ultrasonics against/thru them to dry them. And I do this every week (or whatever).

    What is the affect on the structural integrity of the fabric? Wouldn't prolonged exposure to intense vibration cause some fibers to break and knits to stretch? Would the ends of fibers tend to fray more quickly?

    I don't think I'll be the first on my block to buy one.

    • THANK YOU! Finally someone asks a smart question.
    • Exactly. I'd like to see how they work after 5 years before I commit. I don't like what my current electric heat drier does to my clothes, so I'm very interested in an alternative, but not if it is worse (obviously).

    • I would have to imagine it wouldn't be any worse than tumble drying. Get some jeans and do a side by side: wear them in contexts where they won't be heavily soiled, wash and dry one every two times it is worn, and the other wash once a month and air dry it. The difference in wear is pretty noticeable.
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      I was wondering about that too but the more I think about:

      1) on "ordinary fabrics" heat + tumble dry is not exactly gentle. Certainly the heat causes expansion and contraction, which probably puts much more stress on cotton and natural fibers than vibration would.

      2) heat on synthetics often results in fatal failure modes! I have lots of outdoor/backcountry stuff that is entirely synthetic and I have ruined that stuff by failing to set the thing to "noheat"

      I don't know that this ultra sonic stuff might not

    • Mostly the ultrasound causes nodes of pressure and vacuum to form in the air; the vacuum reduces the boiling point of water in the fabric and boil off the water, which is then vented outside. Ultrasonic cleaners work by causing steam filled cavitions pockets in the working fluid, they literally steam clean things at room temperature.

    • by Verdatum ( 1257828 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @12:45PM (#54263825)
      No. That's the fascinating thing about ultrasonics. It's got a strong effect on fluids, but a minimal impact on intertwined solids. Line-drying is still likely to be better on delicate fabrics, but ultrasonics are going to be way gentler than hot-air tumble-drying. I'm not saying that this is a marketable solution, and yeah, bleeding-edge early adopters deserve every problem they get, but the frequencies and amplitudes used aren't any good at pulling apart fibers (and that's part of why ultrasonic clothes washing isn't feasible).
  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @09:09AM (#54262465) Journal
    I applaud developing new technologies for energy efficiency. Still, it's going to be a while before this is available.

    In the meantime one could consider a heat-pump clothes dryer [google.com]. Rather than using electricity or natural gas to heat indoor air, pass it over the clothes, then dump it to the outside in a once-through cycle, a heat-pump dryer uses (as you can guess) a heat pump. The hot side of the heat pump creates warm air that passes over the clothes gathering moisture. The cold side condenses the moisture back out, before passing this de-humidifed air back to the hot side.

    Advantages:
    • * Uses 1/2 the electricity of an ordinary dryer
    • * It has no vent to the outdoors, so the whole home envelope can be that much tighter. (It does have a water drain for the condensate.)
    • * The mechanism relies on warm, de-humidified air, rather than heavily heated air, so it is more gentle on clothes
    • * They've been available as consumer products for a number of years now - it's not brand new technology

    Yes, they are more expensive. That is to be expected, considering how dirt-simple the mechanisms of a traditional dryer are. However, depending on your local electricity rates and how much laundry you do, the breakeven should be well within the lifetime of the appliance. Maybe that's not enough to junk a perfectly good existing dryer, but should definitely be considered when purchasing a replacement.

      • * Uses 1/2 the electricity of an ordinary dryer

      My gas dryer uses less than half the electricity of your electric dryer you know..

    • Mod this up! +5 informative.
    • Uses 1/2 the electricity of an ordinary dryer. It has no vent to the outdoors, so the whole home envelope can be that much tighter. (It does have a water drain for the condensate.). The mechanism relies on warm, de-humidified air, rather than heavily heated air, so it is more gentle on clothes. They've been available as consumer products for a number of years now - it's not brand new technology

      I have a 2 in 1 washer and condensing dryer. Saves a lot of space, and it is handy to just throw a load in and have it wash and dry without having to change machines. Obviously not good if you do a high volume of laundry or if you are concerned about speed - the condensing dryer is quite a bit slower than a regular dryer, whereas the one in the article seems much faster. Apparently these are quite popular in Europe, not so much in North America (I could only find four models when I was looking to buy).

    • It does have a water drain for the condensate.

      Mine captures the condensate in a storage compartment that needs to be taken out and emptied into the sink, so it doesn't need to be connected to anything. It does add one short step to the process of doing laundry, but I found the condensate quite suitable for refilling the steam iron, so that saves on shopping for distilled water. There's a lot of surplus too, so I'm sure it can be used for other (non-food) water evaporating applications as well.

      All in all, the thing is worth every penny I spent on it. As

  • Would you have Rosie get my suit out of the ultrasonic dryer for me? And tell Elroy to pick up his room. I'm going to walk the dog.
  • Lint build-up in dryer vents is a common source of home fires, so maybe a dryer that creates less lint would reduce the chance of a fire, and in turn public safety? Of course dryer vent/lint fires typically occur because homeowners are negligent in cleaning vents out, BUT if this could remove or reduce long-term dryer vent cleaning effort/cost that would be another benefit. I'm just speculating, of course...

    • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

      oops, I missed an important word "...reduce the chance of fire, and in turn IMPROVE public safety..."

  • I once had the misfortune of having to work in a room that contained several large ultrasonic cleaners. Even with their covers closed, the noise drove me crazy in short order.

    Such a dryer would need a lot of soundproofing.

  • They ran some small-scale experiments with flat fabric samples on a huge transducer, then they stuck some transducers into a drum and imply that somehow they can make it scale. If this ever works (and that's doubtful), it will take tens of millions of dollars to develop. What a waste of $880000 of public funding.

    You want energy efficient drying? That's really simple: hang your clothes up on a line. If you need it faster, wear synthetics.

  • by evolutionary ( 933064 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:31AM (#54262899)
    Has anyone done a study of long term effects of prolonged exposure to ultrasonic waves? We humans have a habit of producing something to sell without consideration of long term consequences to the environment...or ourselves.
  • by ahziem ( 661857 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:58AM (#54263067) Homepage
    After drying cloths, the next steps are washing clothes and showering people like the sonic showers on Star Trek.

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