Ultrasonic Cleaning 101
What are ultrasonic waves?
Ultrasonic cleaner waves are sound waves transmitted above 20,000 Hz (20 kHz or 20,000 cycles per second), or higher than the frequency detectable by humans. Sound waves are created by the vibration of an object, which causes the air molecules around it to vibrate. These vibrations cause our eardrums to vibrate, which the brain then interprets as sound. When the original vibration is very fast, so are the sound waves, and the pitch of the sound created is too high for the human ear to hear.
Ultrasonic cleaners work in a very similar way to a loud speaker, except the ultrasonic cleaner waves travel at a much higher frequency and through water instead of air. A high-frequency electronic generator that creates ultrasonic waves is connected to a diaphragm, a flat or cone-shaped structure similar to the visible cone-shaped portion of a loudspeaker. The generator vibrates the diaphragm at a specific high frequency, usually between 25 and 170 kHz, inside a specially designed water tank. The ultrasonic cleaner waves created cause the water molecules to vibrate rapidly, creating alternating waves of compression and expansion within the water. During the expansion phase, or rarefaction cycle, the liquid is torn apart, creating cavitation bubbles. These bubbles are where ultrasonic cleaning technology is born.
How does ultrasonic cleaner technology clean?
Cavitation bubbles are vacuum cavities as tiny as red blood cells, or about 8 thousandths of a millimeter across. They are so small that it would take 1,250 of them lined up in a row to reach 1 cm long.
Under pressure of continuous vibration, these bubbles stretch and compress at a fast rate. Once they reach a certain size, as determined by the frequency and strength of the sound waves produced, the bubbles lose structural integrity and collapse violently. When these implosions happen near a surface, the bubbles emit high-powered streams of plasma that travel at more than 500 miles per hour and collide with, agitate and remove even very tiny particles and substances from that surface.
In an ultrasonic cleaning machine, this happens millions of times per second, but because cavitation bubbles are so small the process is both highly effective and very gentle. Ultrasonic technology can be used to clean metals, plastics, glass, rubber and ceramics. It effectively removes a wide variety of contaminants, even if present only in trace amounts, including dust, dirt, rust, oil, grease, soot, mold, carbon deposits, polishing compounds, wax, pigments, lime scale, bacteria, algae, fungus, fingerprints and biological soil.
These contaminants typically are removed even if they are tightly adhered to or embedded onto solid surfaces, or if they are in remote cracks or tiny crevices of an object. For this reason, items usually do not need to be disassembled before being put safely in an ultrasonic cleaning unit.
Technology at your disposal
This technology is part of SERVPRO of Mcallen’s cleaning arsenal. We have certified cleaning technicians that can tackle even the most contaminated fire-soot contents. In the event that you go through a Fire Loss, call the experts at SERVPRO of Mcallen to bring your contents back to life and make it “Like it never even happened.”