U.K. scientists develop ultrasonic device to better clean medical instruments

StarStream device--Courtesy of the University of Southampton

Researchers from the University of Southampton have created an ultrasonic device that creates tiny bubbles to scrub surfaces--thereby reducing the need for additives and heating to achieve effective cleaning. Known as the StarStream, the device, which is already in commercial production by ultrasound cleaning specialist Ultrawave, essentially improves the cleaning power of water.

In testing, the StarStream was able to effectively remove biological contamination, including brain tissue, from surgical steel using just cold water. The device was also effective when used to remove bacterial biofilms, as well as in stripping soft tissue from bones. The latter is typically required prior to transplants to prevent rejection of the transplanted material.

"In the absence of sufficient cleaning of medical instruments, contamination and infection can result in serious consequences for the health sector and remains a significant challenge," Principal Investigator Professor Tim Leighton, from the University's Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, said in a statement. "Our highly-effective cleaning device, achieved with cold water and without the need for chemical additives or the high power consumption associated with conventional strategies, has the potential to meet this challenge and transform the sector."

Ultrawave and the University of Southampton developed StarStream via a partnership. The device can save an estimated 79% to 97% of the energy used in current commercial products. And it also recycles the used water, so it produces water savings of 83% to 99%.

"Commercialization is vital: if we cannot build a business that can sell thousands of these to health providers at a price they find attractive, this invention will stay in the laboratory and help no-one," concluded Leighton.

- here is the announcement