When it comes to household energy sucks, the electric clothes dryer reigns supreme. Imagine getting a load of laundry completely dry in just 20 minutes, with 70 percent less energy. That’s what this ultrasonic clothes dryer promises, without a lick of heat. The concept has been proven with a lab prototype, and now researchers are at work on building a full-size model to determine whether the technology could someday compete with conventional clothes dryers.
Clothes dryers account for 4 percent of household energy use across the United States, leading many people to turn to an outdoor clothesline in an effort to trim their utility bills. However, that option simply isn’t practical for apartment dwellers or during rainy seasons, so it’s high time that technology provides a more energy efficient method of accomplishing the necessary task. So, what about this heat-free ultrasonic dryer?
The next-generation clothes dryer was developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) through a project backed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office and GE Appliances. The prototype contains piezoelectric transducers driven by a custom amplifier that emit ultrasonic waves (high-frequency vibrations) to remove moisture from fabric at near lightning speed. The byproduct of the ultrasonic drying process is a cool mist, as opposed to the warm, humid that conventional dryers need to vent, which would cut down on mold and mildew issues. Researchers are working to develop a full-scale prototype now, as well as methods for capturing and reusing the dryer’s mist output (such as condensing it into water that could be used in an accompanying washing machine).
Images via U.S. Department of Energy