Ultrasonic cleaning is a process that uses ultrasound and a cleaning solvent to completely and rapidly remove dirt particles from an object. The ultrasound can be used with just water, but use of a solvent appropriate for the item to be cleaned and the type of soiling present enhances the effect. Cleaning generally lasts between 3 and 6 minutes, but can exceed 20 minutes, depending on the object to be cleaned.
The process is achieved by high frequency electrical energy that is converted by a transducer into high frequency sound waves – ultrasonic energy. After ultrasonic energy enters the liquid within the tank or bath, minute bubbles start to rapidly form and collapse; a phenomenon known as cavitation. These bubbles travel at high speed within the tank, causing them to implode against the surface of any immersed object with an enormous release of energy. As the bubbles implode and cavitation occurs, the cleaning solution rushes into the gap left behind by the bubbles, gently lifting any contaminants, dirt and tarnishing from both the surface and innermost recesses of intricately shaped parts.
Most hard, non-absorbent materials not chemically attacked by the cleaning fluid are suitable for ultrasonic cleaning. Ideal materials for ultrasonic cleaning include dental and surgical instruments, electronic parts, lenses and other optical parts, jewellery, cables, rods, wires and detailed items, as well as objects made of glass, plastic, aluminium or ceramic. Industrial ultrasonic cleaners are used in the automotive, sporting, printing, marine, medical, pharmaceutical, electroplating, disk drive components, engineering and weapons industries.
Ultrasonic cleaning does not sterilize the objects being cleaned, because spores and viruses will remain on the objects after cleaning. In medical applications, sterilization normally follows ultrasonic cleaning as a separate step.
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