Putting laundry in a spin

Posted on 27 Jan 2010 by The Manufacturer

An almost waterless laundry cleaning system is the latest innovation to be associated with the UK’s only dedicated Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire.

Xeros Ltd is developing the world’s first “virtually waterless” washing machines at its new environmentally efficient unit at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham. The park is a joint venture between Yorkshire Forward and UK Coal, while the Evolution scheme has been developed by UK Strategic Partnership.

The technology has been developed over the past 30 years by textile chemistry professor Stephen Burkinshaw at the University of Leeds. Spinout company Xeros has undertaken the commercialisation of the process at its laboratories in city. The decision to move operations to the Park was made in a bid to break into the global laundry products market — expected to reach approximately $50bn this year.

The new washers will re-use polymer beads which act as a cleaning agent to remove dirt from clothes, saving up to 90% of water compared to conventional washing machines. Taking US domestic washing as an example, such reductions translate into 1.2bn tonnes of water saved per year — equivalent to 17 million swimming pools. Moreover, the system also has the potential to dramatically cut carbon emissions because far less electricity and detergent is required than in conventional machines.

Xeros aims to have a commercially viable product ready for the end of 2010. Its first target will be the commercial washing market, including hotels, care homes, and high street washing outlets. It also plans to license the technology to domestic machine manufacturers, enabling them to capture the considerably larger domestic market.

Xeros CEO, Bill Westwater, said, “This is an exciting development in our plan to offer the world a greener washing system and gives us an impressive location to demonstrate the technology to potential partners. We have received tremendous support from the team at the AMP and hope that working alongside industry innovators and international brands at the Park will open up new opportunities. We are looking forward to launching our first machines from Evolution.”