A British-developed washing machine that uses considerably less water and energy compared to similar models is set for launch onto the US domestic market in 2016.
This is the aim of Xeros, a Leeds University spin-out that has created a front-loading washing machine that cleans clothes using a combination of patented polymer beads, a proprietary detergent and relatively little water.
In use, water and detergent help to lift dirt from clothes during the agitation stage of the wash cycle, with the beads then absorbing and trapping the removed dirt.
Water inside a bead pump is used to push the beads vertically into the wash, and the same water is then re-circulated through the system in order to repeat the process, pushing back beads that have returned to the machine’s sump.
Based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham, the company’s current 25kg machine is in use at hotels in the US where Xeros is focussing on validating its technology prior to wider roll-out.
The company plans to license its technology for an 8kg domestic model and has revealed that a number of manufacturers are interested in this proposition as the technology can be incorporated in a way that does not require radically new production processes.
Approximately 11 million washing machines are sold in the US per year, but licensing the technology into this market is only one portion of the company’s business model.
Bill Westwater, CEO of Xeros said: ‘The beads, when they come to the end of life Xeros process, are essentially full of dirt…[but] the molecular structure hasn’t been fundamentally changed at all and there’re plenty of customers further down the polymer supply chain that are perfectly happy to pay us decent money for that polymer.
‘For instance, the car industry uses nylon in dashboards. They don’t care that there might be a little bit of dirt, as long as the molecular structure is still solid.
‘It’s always about selling and recycling beads – never just the beads themselves.’
In their commercial operations, Xeros’ machines have shown proven reductions in water consumption of up to 80 per cent, 50 per cent reductions in energy (or 100 per cent if washing at ambient temperature) and 50 per cent reductions in detergent usage. For domestic users, Westwater anticipates one change of beads during the six year life of a machine. Just as with commerical customers, Xeros would arrange pick up and delivery of beads by piggy-backing existing delivery services.
‘Bead cleaning can perform benefits that are simply impossible in conventional washing and that’s another reason why we’ve got high hopes for this technology as we push it out there, particularly to the domestic market,’ said Westwater.