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Ultrasonic dryers may be the future of energy-efficient dryers

Instead of heat, these clothes dryers will use vibrations

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The process of drying freshly washed clothing has evolved since the era of clotheslines, but scientists think there’s still room for growth in the dryer industry.

Ultrasonic dryers may soon act as a more energy efficient sidekick to the washing machine. Researchers say ultrasonic dryers will dry your clothes in half the time via a process of "displacing the water with a low-energy, high-frequency vibration."

Your dog won’t even be able to hear the high-pitched vibrations that are slated to take the place of traditional heating elements, said head researcher Ayyoub Momen. But while stealthy, these vibrations will be highly effective in extracting the moisture from your clothing in an energy efficient manner. 

"Mind blowing" results

The electric devices that create the vibration-inducing sounds are called piezoelectric transducers, Momen told CNN. So how, exactly, can a sound dry the contents of your laundry hamper?

In short, via vigorous shaking. These vibrations will shake wet fabric in a way that causes moisture to be wicked away and turned to a cool mist. (Mist which then goes to a tank to be drained by the user.)

The ultrasonic dryer is not only three to five times more energy efficient than existing options, it’s more time efficient. Momen says it’ll slash drying times, whittling down the time it takes to dry a full load of laundry to around 20 to 30 minutes.

"The first results were mind blowing," said Momen, who worked on the dryer with his colleagues at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "We could dry a piece of fabric in just 14 seconds. If you wanted to do that in an oven, it would take several minutes."

For those who dread putting fade-prone clothing into a hot dryer, the lack of heat in the drying process may also be a perk. But in addition to less lint and wear, consumers may appreciate a heat-free dryer for its energy efficiency.

3-4 times more efficient

The vast majority of U.S. households use clothes dryers. Together, these dryers eat up 4% of total residential energy use, CNN notes. Momen believes ultrasonic dryers can help mitigate the energy-depleting effect of dryers.

By this Fall, Momen and his team expect to have a full-sized prototype of an ultrasonic dryer that can dry a full load of laundry. From there, Momen and his team will work with General Electric to get the cost of the dryer down.

"Our estimate is it will cost about $500 to $1,000 for consumers, which is about the same as a premium commercial dryer right now," Momen said. He adds that it’s ultimately up to GE to set the cost.

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