Even the most efficient washing machines on the market use a lot of energy and water, especially if warm or hot water is involved. But this revolutionary concept from designer Elie Ahovi could change all that. The Orbit ditches the soap and water for the cleaning power of dry ice. It's also silent and only takes a few minutes per load to boot.
How It Works
We've seen waterless washing machines before, but not quite like this one. It is made up of a battery-filled ring, through which electric current flows. The spherical drum, holding the clothes, is made of superconductive metal, dropped to a very low temperature by liquid nitrogen. As its electrical resistivity drops to zero, it floats within the ring.
But inside the drum is where the magic (science) happens. Dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide, is sublimated (turned into gas without becoming a liquid first) and fired at high pressure into the dirty clothing. The CO2 reacts with the dirt and grease, removing it from the clothing.
Dry ice blasting is a well established cleaning technique, though it is used mostly for industrial applications. Once the undesirable elements have been separated, they are filtered into a tube, leaving only clean clothing behind. The CO2 in gas form is sucked up and sublimated back into its solid form.
Because the process depends on a near instantaneous chemical reaction, the process of cleaning is considerably shortened, and the noise of sloshing water becomes a thing of the past. The Orbit needs only occasional maintenance, so the isolated dirt can be removed. It is a closed circuit system, so the CO2 doesn't have to be replaced, and the batteries in the ring recharge themselves by capturing the energy of the spinning drum through induction.
Could It Work?
I'm on the fence as to whether the Orbit is cunningly simple or wildly fantastic. Through my effort to understand how it works (and my possibly ineffectual effort to explain it) I've wavered, but ultimately think it has potential. Ahovi would need to develop the concept more, to address materials used, produce a cost benefit analysis, and most of all, to convince potential manufacturers and customers that this thing would really work. He says that he "wanted a credible product," and I don't think he's very far off the mark.
For now, though, simpler may be better- like this pedal powered washing machine.