Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are troubleshooting a project that could one day save you energy, time and money on a task we're all familiar with: clothes drying.
ORNL is working to revolutionize the way we dry clothes with a dryer that uses no heat.
Ayyoub Momen, principal investigator of the ORNL research team, said the appliances rely on ultrasonic vibrations to remove moisture from fabric rather than traditional heat.
“As you energize piezoelectric transducers, what will happen is [they] can vibrate at very high frequencies, and then if you put a fabric on top of that, it can atomize water,” Momen explained.
The technology is five times as efficient as conventional heat dryers, and can dry clothing up to two times as fast.
Conventional clothes dryers can consume as much energy as your washing machine, refrigerator and dishwasher put together, according to a 2014 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report says Americans spend $9 billion annually on dryers whose efficiency has not been improved in several decades.
Research first began with a cloth about the size of a nickel. Scientists were able to dry the cloth in 14 seconds. Then researchers scaled up to a napkin-sized fabric, and then a press dryer before finally beginning testing on a full-sized dryer unit in late April.
"We want to make sure that this dryer dries a full load of clothing in 30 minutes," Momen said.
The project involves $880,000 in funding support from the U.S. Department of Education.
Researchers are still working on troubleshooting and improving the dryer. ORNL is partnering with General Electric Appliances in the hopes of having the ultrasonic dryer on the market within the next four years.