Scientists from the UK have developed a revolutionary ultrasonic attachment for taps, which massively enhances the ability of water to clean.
Currently, industry uses excessive water, power and additives for cleaning. For example, it can take up to 100 tonnes of water to produce 1 tonne of clean wool after shearing. Many industrial processes also generate large quantities of contaminated run-off. The water from hosing down an abattoir represents a real health risk and cannot be allowed to enter the water supply. Purifying run-off is costly -- each cubic metre of water used for cleaning in the nuclear industry can cost around £10,000 to subsequently treat.
Professor Tim Leighton and Dr Peter Birkin's device works with cold water, minimal additives and consumes as much electrical power as a light bulb. Its application will be wide -- licenses have already been sold to a number of industries to look at cleaning in food preparation, hospitals, manufacturing and the home. The new technology consumes less water and power than the established competitor technologies.
Talking about the need for such a technology, Professor Leighton says: "Society runs on its ability to clean. Ineffective cleaning leads to food poisoning; failure of manufactured products such as precision watches and microchips; and poor construction -- from shipbuilding to space shuttles -- since dirty surfaces do not bond. The impact in healthcare is huge -- hospital-acquired infections, from instruments that aren't properly cleaned, cost the NHS £1 billion per year. There's a very obvious need for technologies that improve our ability to clean while saving on our most important resources, water and energy."
In recognition of their invention, Professor Leighton and Dr Birkin were awarded the £250,000 Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation 2011.
They plan to develop products based on an ultrasonic nozzle which can fit on the end of a tap or hose. The device uses less water and power than the equivalent pressure washer (approximately 2 litres/minute compared to 20 litres/minute and less than 200 W compared to 2kW). It is also far less damaging as the stream pressure is less that 1/100th that of a pressure washer, and it works with unheated water.
Return to main page