1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Remove clothing wrinkles using ultrasonics?

  1. Feb 22, 2014 #1
    My name is Joe and I am a industrial design student currently working on my final year project in university. I am seeking some information regarding the project, which I hope someone on here may be able to help with.
    My question is regarding clothing irons and how can wrinkles in clothes be removed without the use of heat. I am aware that currently the particles are disrupted by heat and pressure in conventional domestic irons and whilst they are broken the pressure of the iron re aligns them. As the temperature cools bonds are reformed in there un creased state. My apologies if this is incorrect as I have very little physics knowledge.

    I am writing to ask if technology such as ultrasonics would be able to disrupt the bonds in replace of heat? I am aware steam is able to do this but would be keen to hear anyones thoughts on how this could possibly be done without heat or steam.

    Thank you for your time to read this. I look forward to your responses.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2014 #2
    If we want to break the bonds in the cloth we will either have to energize the particles or we will have to bring a chemical reagent which could break that bond and make new ones.In the first case where we energize the particles we can only do this by by supplying heat in one form or other.Even if we use ultrasonic sounds in the end this vibrational energy will transform into heat on being transmitted to the cloth, so I think you can only change the way in which you are supplying this heat by using conduction in an iron or ultrasounds but finally end up using heat to break the bonds.If the motive behind not using heat was to prevent the cloth getting worn out or faded you may want to resort to cloth materials which have high transition temperature so that they never get wrinkled at the first place.
  4. Feb 22, 2014 #3
    The only problem is in the generation of ultrasonic energy. As the technology is right now, you have to have a high power ultrasonic sound generator, from some frequency maybe from 10 Khz to 1 Mhz or more. I don't think it would be especially energy efficient compared to just heat with an iron.

    The thing about an iron is it does use a lot of electricity and when it is heating it can use several hundred watts but when it reaches its operating temperature the power requirement goes down because it has a duty cycle, say 50% as a guess.

    That means if it took 1000 watts to heat up to its operating point temperature wise, the actual power consumption goes down to 500 watts, half the energy needed to get to its operating temperature. That is a total guess, just for illustration, not sure exactly how much energy an iron takes but it is not insignificant.

    The problem with ultrasonic energy is you have to have a transducer that converts the energy of the audio generator to the actual ultrasonic energy you need.

    So the gist of all that is first you need to find a transducer that does not need to be cooled, some of them can do that, there are ultrasonic lead bonders in the semiconductor manufacturing world that bonds the gold or silver or aluminum microwires to the device being made and they are for the most part not water cooled.

    The second thing you need is to find out if ultrasonic energy can even do the job you want at all.

    That may involve using a very wide frequency range that maybe would turn out that some exact frequency would do the job at X amount of energy applied. But if it turned out you needed, just for illustration, a frequency of 123.4 kilohertz, then you would have to have a generator capable of producing that exact frequency.

    And then you would have to figure out how much energy would be required to do the job, if it can indeed be done at all with that technology.

    You would probably end up with a device that looks for all intents and purposes just like the ordinary clothing iron but with an ultrasonic transducer instead of a heater.

    It may also be that the ultrasonic generator would still need some heat, but say 100 degrees C less but still say, needing 80 degrees C to run.

    This would require the iron to have an ultrasonic generator AND still need a heater.

    Those are just guesses as to what you would require but if it turned out to be like that, you would probably not save money or energy in the long run to do that job.

    If it took 1000 watts at 123.4 Kilohertz to do the job and requiring 80 degrees C also, you save some energy in that you don't have to go whatever a regular iron needs, 140 degrees C maybe so maybe you would only need say 200 watts of heat but you would still need your kilowatt of ultrasonic energy so the energy requirement might actually go UP not down, which I would presume would have been the motivation for such a project.

    Besides, ultrasonic generators are not cheap no matter what you use. For instance, even the cheapest Ultrasonic jewelry unit is around US $180 dollars and could be a lot more than that. AND that is not designed for anything but a vat of water with some cleaning solution in it, basically using the water as a coolant for the ultrasonic transducer.

    My guess is an ultrasonic transducer that does not require cooling would be more like a thousand dollars, although that is just an estimate based on my extensive experience in the semiconductor world. I used to rebuild ultrasonic generators for a living along with a lot of other semiconductor machines, like ion implanters and reactive ion sputtering tools and electron microscopes and such so I know some of what I am talking about.
  5. Feb 22, 2014 #4
    First, thank you both for your responses. As mentioned previously this is not a area I am too familiar with and your responses are incredibly valuable to me.

    Some great points, I take on board that there may be heat involved but my goal is to ultimately reduce the amount of heat that the actual soleplate of the iron emits. From reading through your posts it sounds as if they may be difficult to achieve using ultrasonics. The issue of cost is also a paramount one and with the figures that litup has suggested may cause this technology to be completely out of scope.

    The origin to my suggestion of ultrasonics came from

    (apologies if we are not supposed to post external links)

    Is there an alternative technology that could be used such as the combination of the infrared and ultrasonics to achieve the bond breakdown that is required.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  6. Feb 22, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I haven't read it all but this one appears to use friction between the iron and the material to heat up the plate......


    Ultrasonic hair straighteners also seem to be available. Not sure how they work.
  7. Feb 23, 2014 #6
    That sounds interesting, thanks CWatters. The hair straighteners you mentioned were the source of inspiration for this

    I have found this product:


    Demonstration of product:

    which seems to use FIR infrared and ultrasonics.

    "Ultrasonic: 36000 magnetic vibrations per second.
    Infrared: 14 professional lights"

    A similar unit quotes the below spec

    "Ultrasonic Frequency: 600,000times/second
    Infrared Wavelength: 690 nm"

    From watching this product turn water into steam almost instantaneous would this allow the hydrogen bonds inside the fabric application to also break down and allow the creases to be removed?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads - Remove clothing wrinkles Date
B Table cloth trick Feb 25, 2018
B Can i remove mass from matter May 4, 2017
I How to remove Ethanol from Gasoline? Mar 22, 2017
B Why removing and replacing remote battery makes it work? Nov 18, 2016
I Remove free electrons from plasma? May 29, 2016