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Royal Society selects Southampton invention for Royal visitor

Published: 15 January 2013Origin: Engineering

The Royal Society selected the University of Southampton’s StarStream technology as one of three inventions it presented to HRH Prince Andrew at its recent Labs to Riches event, a celebration which marked the start of the Royal Society’s Year of Science and Industry.

Professor Tim Leighton from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research and Dr Peter Birkin from Chemistry, co-inventors of the StarStream technology, were invited to demonstrate their device, which enhances the ability of water to clean.

The team have developed an ultrasonic cleaning nozzle that generates ultrasound and bubbles. These travel down a stream of water from the nozzle, dramatically improving the cleaning power of water with reduced additives and heating.

StarStream's ability to clean with cold water reduces power bills. The reduction in additives means less trouble in purifying the water run-off, less risk of contaminating water supplies, and the option to use StarStream water to clean items where traditional surfactants are unwelcome. Reduced spray and aerosol also means less airborne secondary contamination.

The StarStream technology recently won the 2012 Institute of Chemical Engineering Award for "Water Management and Supply", and previously won the Royal Society's 2011 Brian Mercer award for innovation (click here for video).

Professor Leighton says: "We are very honoured that the Royal Society chose our invention to show His Royal Highness at this event, and are pleased that the first year of work on the Brian Mercer Innovation Award has been so successful at advancing the technology."

The StarStream technology has received significant interest from a range of companies looking for novel cleaning solutions in consumer, medical and industrial cleaning applications. The use of StarStream in a given application can reduce the volume of water used by a factor of 5 or more, an important saving since the cost of treating 1 m3 of water after it has be used for nuclear decontamination is around £10,000.

Ultrawave Ltd. is building devices using the technology for manufacturing industries (see their video here). The Southampton team is collaborating with Philips with regards to consumer product applications, and Philips has funded the development of a prototype. Southampton is actively collaborating with Sellafield Ltd. who has funded the development of a prototype, while the Tate Gallery has also tested the ability of StarStream for cleaning artwork.

Dr Birkin adds: "We very much look forward to working with Ultrawave and other companies in what will undoubtedly be an exciting year for this invention."

This year, a number of groups across diverse Faculties will be supplied with StarStream devices to explore their applications in research labs.

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