Scientists at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a “dryer of the future” that uses high-frequency vibrations instead of heat to extract moisture from clothes. Compared with traditional tumble dryers, which can consume as much energy as a refrigerator, clothes washer, and dishwasher combined, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the newfangled process significantly reduces drying time and energy use. Ayyoub M. Momen, the research engineer spearheading the project, said his invention was inspired by commercial humidifiers that use ultrasonic transducers to convert water into tiny droplets, creating a cool mist.

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“When I put a very small piece of fabric on top of these transducers, in just 14 seconds I could dry fabric from completely wet to completely dry,” Momen, who described the results as “amazing and mind-blowing,” told U.S.A. Today.

A full-fledged “ultrasonic clothes dryer” could reduce drying times for a full load by as much as 15 to 20 minutes, he added.

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Another plus? Fewer dryer fires, which occur when heating elements raise the temperature of highly flammable lint to the point of ignition.

Momen and his team at ORNL are now working with General Electric Appliances, which is contributing 20 percent of the funding, to commercialize the technology. They hope to to have a working full-sized prototype by August 2016, Momen said.

+ Oak Ridge National Laboratory

[Via U.S.A. Today]