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No need for detergent—ultrasonic-infused water can clean by itself

Ultrawave Ultrasonic
It looks like normal water, but it cleans like detergent.
  • Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Science reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

British scientists have created a nozzle that infuses water with ultrasound to create micro-scrubbing bubbles. These bubbles can get inside tiny cracks, and are so effective that they’ve been used to clean medical instruments so that they’re free from contamination.

The technology, invented by Tim Leighton and Peter Birkin from the University of Southampton, was awarded the Royal Society’s Brian Mercer Award for Innovation. It is currently under limited commercial production, but, according to Reuters, Leighton hopes to raise money to turn the device, which is called Starstream, into a tool for the general public.

The professor told Reuters he was trying to create a cleaning device that didn’t need bleach or detergent, and realized that underwater bubbles, which are naturally present in water, could prove useful. He added:

“These balls of gas, normally just sit there spherically under water. But if you hit them with a sound field you can make their surfaces ripple. And you get such high sheer and rubbing along the surfaces of these ripples that it can clean very effectively,”

The invention could lead to reduced reliance on cleaning chemicals. Leighton believes it could also improve public cleanliness by speeding up any cleaning process that uses additional products.

“Our aspiration would be to make that six seconds of washing in cold water without soap—using Starstream—as effective as 20 seconds of warm soapy water,” says Leighton.

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