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Physicists Reveal More Effective and Earth-Friendly Way To Clean Dishes

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Researchers simulated a superheated steam dishwasher, finding that it killed 99% of bacteria on a plate in just 25 seconds.


Washing dishes with superheated steam is more effective and Earth-friendly.

Simulations show steam kills bacteria on a plate in just 25 seconds — without soap.


Often, conventional dishwashers do not kill all the harmful microorganisms left on plates, bowls, and cutlery. They also require long cycle times that use large amounts of electricity. Additionally, the soap pumped in and out is released into water sources, polluting the environment.

A more effective, environmentally friendly solution could be provided by superheated steam dishwashers. In a study published on August 30, 2022, in

Bacteria concentration on the plate within the dishwasher over time. The superheated steam kills off the bacteria within 25 seconds. Credit: Laila Abu-Farah and Natalie Germann

“Steam comes out of the nozzle at a very high velocity. We can see shocks, and the turbulent flow that is created has eddies and vortices,” said author Natalie Germann, of the Technical University of Dortmund. “We also include heat transfer, which shows how the heat changes in the simulation box and the condensation on the solid surfaces.”

The shock waves, created by the high velocity of the steam, are reflected at surfaces in the dishwasher. In the work, the team focused on bacteria. However, the shocks could be used to effectively remove food debris in the future.

“Our study helps determine the strength of the shocks, the position of the shocks, and the vortices that are created inside the dishwasher,” said author Laila Abu-Farah, of the Technical University of Munich. “These things are very important for arranging the items or objects inside the dishwasher and the placement and orientation of the nozzles.”



While the simulations show quick inactivation of the bacteria, actual applications of the dishwasher would include more than one plate and would therefore require more time. However, the scientists believe it would still be much faster and more effective than conventional technology.

Although the superheated steam dishwasher would initially cost more, it would pay off in the long run with savings on water, electricity, and detergent. It would be ideal for use in places that must meet high hygienic standards, including restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.

“We confirmed that the dishwasher application using superheated steam is promising,” said Germann. “This is the first work combining fluid dynamics and heat transfer with phase change and bacterial inactivation. It thus lays the foundation for future computational research and further technical work.”

Reference: “Simulations of thermal phase changes and bacterial inactivation in a superheated steam dishwasher” by L. Abu-Farah and N. Germann, 30 August 2022, Physics of Fluids.
DOI: 10.1063/5.0090418


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