The Starstream device infuses a stream of regular cold water with ultrasound, turning the tiny water bubbles into micro-scrubbers that clean and remove contaminants from surfaces. Matthew Stock reports.
This device gives regular cold water bacteria-killing cleaning power. Called Starstream, the patented technology in the nozzle infuses a gentle stream of water with ultrasound... turning it into a powerful micro scrubber. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR TIM LEIGHTON, PROFESSOR OF ULTRASONICS AND UNDERWATER ACOUSTICS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON, SAYING: "So we wanted to build some kind of micro-scrubber that can clean without bleach and detergents, and can get into the crevices and the cracks. And so what we did, what we found is the bubble. So these gas bubbles underwater; these balls of gas, normally just sit there spherically under water. But if you hit them with a sound field you can make their surfaces ripple. And you get such high shear and rubbing along the surfaces of these ripples that it can clean very effectively." In lab tests at the University of Southampton, Starstream effectively removed biological contamination from medical instruments. The inventors say it could help reduce dependence on traditional detergents. And it could help combat antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance if the technology could be incorporated into the public's hand washing routine. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR TIM LEIGHTON, PROFESSOR OF ULTRASONICS AND UNDERWATER ACOUSTICS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON, SAYING: "If you can clean effectively, as we're doing here, then you can stop the bugs ever entering the body. And if the bugs never enter the body the person doesn't get an infection and you don't have to use these antibiotics, anti-microbial agents. And you've got a whole different pathway for tackling this anti-microbial resistance catastrophe." Further testing is ongoing. But the team believes that six seconds of washing in cold water without soap using Starstream is as effective as 20 seconds of washing with warm soapy water. A 2011 award from the Royal Society helped them develop the first prototype into the current model. They are now looking for further investment to help miniaturise the technology and make it a viable new tool for health providers and the public.