Nearly Waterless Washing Machine
It sounds almost too good to be true, but British scientists have come up with a way to wash an average sized load of laundry with only one cup of water. This has the potential to cut down the water used by a family's washing machine to 1/50th of its current level.
Extrapolating out the numbers given in the article, this equates to roughly 51,867 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of water every year in England alone. If the researchers have their way, this technology could be out on the commercial market within a year. Lets keep our fingers crossed.
Last updated at 9:00 AM on 09th June 2008
A washing machine that uses only a cup of water to carry out a full wash, leaving clothes virtually dry, has been developed by British inventors.
Researchers say the technology, which uses less than 2 per cent of the water and energy of a conventional machine, could save billions of litres of water each year.
The machine, which has been created by academics at Leeds University, works by using thousands of plastic chips - each about half a centimetre in size - to absorb and remove dirt.
Around 44lb (20kilos) of the chips are added to each load, along with a cup of water and detergent.
During the washing cycle, the water is heated to help dissolve the dirt, which is then absorbed by the plastic chips.
The makers say the chips should be removed at the end of each wash, but can be used up to 100 times - the equivalent of six months washing.
The technology, dubbed Xeros, is already being compared to the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, which revolutionised the home cleaning industry when it was first released in the mid-1990s.
If adopted by many homes across the UK, the machine could save billions of litres of water each year.
According to Waterwise, a nongovernmental organisation which aims to decrease water consumption in the UK by 2010, washing machine use has risen by 23 per cent in the past 15 years, up from three times a week in 1990 to an average four times now.
The average UK household uses almost 21 litres (37 pints) of water daily on clothes washing, 13 per cent of consumption.
Nationally, this equates to approximately 455million litres (800million pints) of water a day - enough to fill 145 Olympic sized swimming pools.
Although the Xeros is currently in the design and testing stage, the inventors say they are in talks with a commercial partner.
The machine could be on the market as early as next year, they added.
Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, the machine's inventor, said tests have produced 'quite astonishing' results.
'We've shown that it can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick whilst using a tiny fraction of the water used by conventional washing machines,' he added.
Dr Rob Rule, director of Xeros Ltd, a company created to develop and market the machine, said: 'This is one of the most surprising and remarkable technologies I've encountered in recent years. Xeros has the ability to save billions of litres of water per year and, we believe, the potential to revolutionise the global laundry market.'
He revealed the company has secured an investment of £500,000 from the University's commercialisation partner, IP Group plc, conditional upon reaching certain milestones.
The team also said the technology could be useful to high street dry cleaning firms as it will get rid of the need to use potentially harmful solvents, some of which have been linked to cancer.
More than two million washing machines are sold in the UK each year, giving the market a value of around £1billion.