As ultrasonic waves activate the stream of water from the StarStream nozzle, the oscillation of the sound waves turns every bubble into a tiny micro-scrubber that can clean flat surfaces, cracks, crevices, and practically any tough-to-reach spot. Just like that, regular water is imbued with cleaning power you’ve only ever heard advertised on late-night infomercials.
Professor Tim Leighton and his team at the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research set out to create a micro-scrubbing solution that would be able to clean all kinds of complex surfaces without bleach and chemical detergents. The research team found that activating the surfaces of bubbles in water with ultrasound waves creates such high shear and rubbing that each one becomes the ideal micro-scrubber in any liquid solution.
StarStream’s nothing-but-water cleaning power is its most innovative feature, but the technology will also serve to enhance the effectiveness of any standard soap, detergent, or bleach cleaning product. The StarStream is already patented technology in limited commercial production by Ultrawave Ltd., and the team has won numerous awards for the device’s promise to disrupt the cleaning product industry. The patented prototype looks a lot like a hairdryer, and is designed mostly for more common cleaning situations, but the StarStream team has already proven numerous highly sensitive applications for the cleaning technology.
Their demonstrations have included removal of dental bacteria that lead to common mouth, tongue, and tooth diseases, and the separation of soft tissue from bone, which is a crucial step to successful surgical transplants. StarStream has also been used to cleaning surgical instruments and removing biological contaminants from medical appliances and surgical steel. In hospitals, StarStream could play a crucial role in maintaining a sterile environment without contributing to humanity’s ever decreasing antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance levels.
Leighton says that with further funding, the team will be able to shrink down the current design to a more readily-installable system. “If you can clean effectively, as we’re doing here, then you can stop the bugs ever entering the body. And if the bugs never enter the body the person doesn’t get an infection and you don’t have to use these antibiotics, anti-microbial agents. And you’ve got a whole different pathway for tackling this anti-microbial resistance catastrophe,” said Leighton. In the future, modifiable StarStreams could be attached to hand-washing stations in hospitals, or even regular sinks in public bathrooms everywhere.