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Washing machine uses beads for clear savings

Why would you add more grit to a washing machine? It turns out the modern-day equivalent of washing clothes by banging them between rocks is actually effective, and it cuts back on water use dramatically.

This washing machine uses beads.

Everyone knows a washing machine requires water and detergent to clean your clothes.

So when you think about halving that amount of water and adding beads -- yes, imagine beads flinging around in the washing machine -- into the equation, it might sound a little off.

But that wasn't the case for University of Leeds' Stephen Burkinshaw, professor of textile chemistry, and his students.

They have developed a washing machine that uses nearly 1.5 million tiny polymer beads mixed with a small cup of water and detergent to thoroughly clean one load of laundry.

The beads physically dislodge dirt, and work against creasing by weighing down the fabric. According to an article in AIP Scitation, "Nylon readily takes up dye, and forming the polymer into round beads yielded the most effective stain extractor." The beads were refined from there to be more effective.

The same beads can reportedly be used over and over for up to six months before being recycled, resulting in an impressive 70 percent savings in water usage and 50 percent savings in electricity.

It's not just a concept: Xeros, a company "spun off" from the University of Leeds, is making these washers. The company promises that the beads will be automatically extracted through the drum -- although I wonder how efficient it is in removing beads that have gotten trapped in clothes' pockets. Plus, a machine full of rattling beads could be rather noisy.

The Xeros washing machine is currently being used by some hotels and dry-cleaning retail shops only. Nevertheless, this washing machine sounds like a brilliant idea that could potentially work toward a greener Earth, if it comes into more widespread use.

(Source: CNET Asia)