[Image above] Credit: Pierre B.; Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Clothes dryers are a mainstay of many people’s weekend laundry routine, but these common household appliances are quite energy inefficient.

Dryers alone account for 4% of the electricity used in U.S. homes, partially because the technology that takes clean clothes from a sopping wet pile to folded and fresh hasn’t changed much since its introduction. We still rely on heating a big rotating metal drum to evaporate the water out of our washed clothes.

So GE Appliances (Louisville, Ky.) and Oak Ridge National Lab (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) together are developing the next generation of laundry appliance that can dry in half the time and use 70% less energy than your current clothes dryer.

Rethinking household appliances is nothing new for GE—we already know the company is well on its way to develop energy-efficient refrigerators that use magnetic technology to boost energy efficiency by 20%.

But instead of magnets, the next-gen clothes drying machines use ultrasonic waves to atomize water droplets off of soaked fabric—saving energy, money, and valuable chore time.

For ultrafast drying with ultrasonic waves, the scientists run electricity through piezoelectric transducers—which causes them to swell and contract—and extend those motions with a specially designed amplifier. The amplifier propagates the ultrasonic waves to vibrate water molecules away, drying wet cloth in a matter of seconds.

Initial tests showed that the device can blast water off of a piece off fabric in just 14 seconds, while heat would require several minutes to do the work.

According to the Department of Energy, which is partly funding the project, the eventual commercial technology should be able to dry clothes in only ~20 minutes per load and offer 70% energy savings over existing clothes dryers.

Watch the video below to see and hear more about this drying development.

Credit: U.S. Department of Energy; YouTube