Ultrasonic cleaners are amazing devices with the ability clean just about anything that is placed into the bath. However, despite their usefulness, not many people are aware where these machines get their tremendous power.
Once you learn more about how an ultrasonic cleaner functions, it will be easy to see exactly why these cleaning tools are so impressive. Learn how ultrasonic cleaners function, where they get their power and how transducers are at the heart of all ultrasonic cleaners.
A Speaker Under Water
Ultrasonic waves are what make your ultrasonic cleaner function, but that leaves one important question: How are those waves generated? In short, your ultrasonic cleaner generates sound waves through the use of a speaker. An ultrasonic cleaner’s speakers work by vibrating a large cone called a diaphragm.
In ultrasonic cleaners, the sound waves are transmitted through the water and turn into cavitation bubbles. A device called a transducer is hooked up to the diaphragm and the whole assembly is fixed to your ultrasonic cleaner. As the transducer vibrates the diaphragm the sound waves are generated and move through the bath.
The transducer is one of the most important parts of the sound generation process. The transducer in your ultrasonic cleaner takes electrical energy and transforms it into mechanical energy. Specifically, it creates a regular motion at a specific frequency. There are two main types of transducers that are at the heart of your ultrasonic cleaner; magnetostrictive and piezoelectric.
Metals that are rich in iron have very interesting properties when you put them into a magnetic field. They can expand and contract depending on the direction of the magnetic field. The magnetostrictive transducer takes advantage of this property by stacking metals and wrapping a copper wire around them.
As current passes through the wire, it creates a magnetic field and causes the metals to expand. The direction of the current is then shifted to the opposite causing the metals to contract. Through the process of expansion and contraction, sonic waves are created in the water to get the cleaning done.
Due to their nature, magnetostrictive transducers are much more robust and durable than piezoelectric ones. However, they are limited in the frequencies they can generate, with a range somewhere between 22 and 30 kHz.
Piezoelectric transducers work by exciting crystals that change shape in the presence of electric fields. These crystals are stacked between metal plates. The plates and crystals are then stacked together to create the transducer. As electricity passes through the crystal it changes shape, causing the transducer to vibrate and create ultrasonic waves.
The biggest benefit of piezoelectric transducers is versatility, with a range of frequencies between 25 and 170 kHz. Additionally, piezoelectric transducers also operate at a much lower voltage than magnetostrictive transducers.
In the past, these transducers were not very durable, leading to a high rate of replacement. However, as materials engineers become more experienced creating these transducers, they are becoming much more durable and able to last longer.
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