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The University of Southampton

Ultrasonic device which enhances water's ability to clean wins 'Product of the Year'

Published: 3 September 2014

New ultrasonic cleaning technology developed by the University of Southampton, which enhances water's ability to clean, has been named as 'Product of the Year'.

StarStream, invented and patented by the University of Southampton and in commercial production by Ultrawave Ltd., was awarded the international accolade by S-Lab (Safe, Successful and Sustainable Laboratories) at a Gala Dinner at Kings College London.

The StarStream device supplies a gentle stream of water through a nozzle that generates ultrasound and bubbles, which dramatically improve the cleaning power of water with reduced additives and heating.

The device’s ability to clean with cold water reduces power bills (producing 79-97 per cent energy savings compared with current commercial products) and it can collect the used water and recycle it (which produces 83-99 per cent water savings compared with current commercial products). Furthermore, StarStream can work without having to add detergent to the water, which reduces costs, minimises the risk of run-off polluting groundwater and streams, and simplifies the task of turning the used water back into safe drinking water.

Recent independent tests found that StarStream is 1,000times more effective than water alone in decontamination tests of the microorganism Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a major cause of hospital acquired infections.

Professor Tim Leighton, from the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, who co-developed StarStream, said: “We are extremely pleased with the performance of StarStream and the partnership with Ultrawave Ltd. It has been a very long road from the initial idea to such a product.

“It would be hard to overstate the value of the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award, which rescued us by providing a platform to partner with Ultrawave Ltd. and by funding collaboration across the University to research new applications.”

John Melville, Managing Director of Ultrawave Ltd., said: “Ultrawave has been searching for the next big idea in ultrasonic cleaning for several years. We believe that by taking ultrasonic cleaning ‘out of the tank’, StarStream is just that.

“We are very proud of our collaboration with the University of Southampton and delighted to be able to bring their innovative technology to market. The prestigious S-Lab award is another important feather in the StarStream cap and confirms the potential for this unique cleaning technology in many diverse applications.”

The research was led by Professor Leighton and Dr Peter Birkin from Chemistry, initially with their former students Doug Offin and Chris Vian, with funding from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

Dr Peter Birkin says: “This is a great example of blue skies research leading to direct commercial benefit to the UK. Clearly funding blue skies can have a direct benefit across multiple fields which cannot always be foreseen at the outset.”

The Royal Society Brian Mercer funding allowed expansion of the team: Nikhil Banda and Dr James Jiang looked at optimising the device; Professor Bill Keevil and Dr Rod Hervé and Dr Tom Secker (from the Centre for Biological Sciences) tested StarStream’s capability at removing proteins from surgical instrument surfaces; Dr Paul Stoodley and Dr Rob Howlin (from Engineering and the Environment) tested its effectiveness of removing biofilms (particularly with dental applications); and Professor Richard Oreffo and Dr Jon Dawson (from Medicine) tested the device’s ability to clean donor bone samples normally employed in orthopaedic surgery.

StarStream has previously won the 2011 Royal Society’s premier award for Innovation, and the 2012 Institute of Chemical Engineering Award for ’Water Management and Supply’.

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