Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are trying to revolutionize the way Americans dry their clothes. They’re working on an ultrasonic dryer that vibrates moisture out, instead of evaporating it with heat, making the dryer more efficient and safer to operate.
Working with GE, they're developing a prototype that swaps heat for ultrasound vibrations, using five to 10 times less energy than traditional dryers. See it in action in the video below. The vibrating dryer turns the moisture in wet clothes into a cold mist, and eliminates the danger of your clothes shrinking in a hot dryer.
The first electric dryer was released in 1938 and became a popular fixture in American households after World War II. Now, some 85 percent of U.S. households have dryers and spend $9 billion a year to operate them [PDF], according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. By heating clothes in a rotating barrel, tumble dryers are exceedingly inefficient, using two to four times more energy than a new washer (and twice as much as European-style heat-pump dryers), and account for almost 6 percent of residential energy consumption [PDF]. These numbers are especially bleak considering there's a completely free, energy-efficient way to dry clothes: on a clothesline.
For now, the ultrasonic dryer prototype is small and can only dry scraps of fabric, but the researchers estimate that a full-sized dryer could reduce drying times for a load by 15 to 20 minutes. Because of the lack of heat, the dryer also produces less lint, which can be a fire hazard when the lint trap isn't properly cleaned.
The researchers expect to have a full working prototype by summer 2016.
[h/t: USA Today]