We spend $9 billion each year powering our clothes dryers. That’s a lot of money and energy (up to 4 percent of America’s residential energy use) we’re wasting.
But scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are about to change all that — and the way that you do laundry. They recently developed an ultrasonic drying concept that uses vibrations instead of heat to dry clothes. This technology is expected to be up to five times more efficient than today’s products and will dry clothes in half the time.
In about two years, researchers took this basic science concept and developed it 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.
The Ultrasonic Dryer
Unlike traditional dryers that rely on heat to evaporate the water out of clothes, the ultrasonic dryer uses a completely different process that’s less energy-intensive. It works by using piezoelectric transducers — a device that converts electricity to vibration. When voltage is added, the transducers vibrate at a high-frequency and turn the water into a cool mist as it’s removed from the fabric.
By removing or minimizing heat from the process, consumers will see less lint and fading of clothes. They’ll also spend less time laundering. The ultrasonic dryer, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office, is expected to cut drying time to about 20 minutes per load — down significantly from the average 50 minutes it currently takes Americans to do their laundry.
Researchers are working with General Electric Appliances to make design tweaks, perform field tests and build out a cost-effective production line. The entire process could take about five years.