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Novel ultrasound device can clean medical instruments

17 September 2015

Researchers have demonstrated how their pioneering ultrasonic device can significantly improve the cleaning of medical instruments.

Professor Tim Leighton pictured with the StarStream device (photo: University of Southampton)

StarStream, invented and patented by the University of Southampton and now in commercial production by Ultrawave, makes water more efficient for cleaning by creating tiny bubbles which automatically scrub surfaces. The device supplies a gentle stream of water through a nozzle that generates ultrasound and bubbles, which dramatically improve the cleaning power of water reducing the need for additives and heating.

Using just cold water, StarStream was able to remove biological contamination, including brain tissue from surgical steel. Cleaning instruments between patients is critical to avoid transmission of agents leading to conditions such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. It was also able to remove bacterial biofilms that typically cause dental disease and was effective at removing soft tissue from bones, which is required prior to transplants to prevent rejection of the transplanted material by the recipient's immune system.

"In the absence of sufficient cleaning of medical instruments, contamination and infection can result in serious consequences for the health sector and remains a significant challenge," says principal investigator, Professor Tim Leighton. "Our highly-effective cleaning device, achieved with cold water and without the need for chemical additives or the high power consumption associated with conventional strategies, has the potential to meet this challenge and transform the sector."

The research, published in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, was funded by the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation. The device has won numerous awards, including the 2014 'Best New Product of the Year' from S-lab and the 2012 Institute of Chemical Engineering Award for Water Management and Supply.


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