US20080236208A1 - Washing machine - Google Patents

Washing machine Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080236208A1
US20080236208A1 US12076833 US7683308A US2008236208A1 US 20080236208 A1 US20080236208 A1 US 20080236208A1 US 12076833 US12076833 US 12076833 US 7683308 A US7683308 A US 7683308A US 2008236208 A1 US2008236208 A1 US 2008236208A1
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
wash
elimination
laundry
deodorization
operation
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
Application number
US12076833
Inventor
Takahiro Miyata
Hiroshi Suda
Takayuki Nakada
Masaharu Machi
Asako Ogawa
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Panasonic Electric Works Co Ltd
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Panasonic Electric Works Co Ltd
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    • DTEXTILES; PAPER
    • D06TREATMENT OF TEXTILES OR THE LIKE; LAUNDERING; FLEXIBLE MATERIALS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • D06FLAUNDERING, DRYING, IRONING, PRESSING OR FOLDING TEXTILE ARTICLES
    • D06F37/00Details of washing machines of kinds covered by groups D06F21/00 - D06F25/00, restricted to machines of these kinds
    • DTEXTILES; PAPER
    • D06TREATMENT OF TEXTILES OR THE LIKE; LAUNDERING; FLEXIBLE MATERIALS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • D06FLAUNDERING, DRYING, IRONING, PRESSING OR FOLDING TEXTILE ARTICLES
    • D06F35/00Washing machines, apparatus, or methods not otherwise provided for
    • D06F35/001Washing machines, apparatus, or methods not otherwise provided for using ozone

Abstract

A washing machine comprises a wash tub having an opening, a door for covering the opening, and an electrostatic atomizer. The electrostatic atomizer is configured to produce mist of charged fine water particles by means of electrostatic atomization to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby perform elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub.

Description

    TECHNICAL FIELD
  • [0001]
    The invention relates generally to washing machines and more particularly to a washing machine equipped with an electrostatic atomizer for producing mist of charged fine water particles by means of electrostatic atomization.
  • BACKGROUND ART
  • [0002]
    A prior art washing machine is configured to sequentially perform wash, rinse and spin-drying. Another type of combo washer dyer is configured to sequentially perform wash, rinse, spin-drying and dry (see Japanese Patent Application Publication Number 2004-194876 issued Jul. 15, 2004).
  • [0003]
    Both of them simply perform wash operations (i.e., wash, rinse and spin-drying operations, or wash, rinse, spin-drying and dry operations). Accordingly, it is desired that elimination and deodorization are improved. The elimination means to eliminate microbes by means of wash, filtration, centrifugal separation, electrical technique or the like.
  • [0004]
    A washing machine equipped with an ozone generator has been therefore proposed. This machine is configured to perform elimination and deodorization by using ozone for laundry in its wash tub. However, in the washing machine, ozone process under high temperature is required owing to toxicity of ozone. Because of this, the door of the machine cannot be opened during operation of the generator and immediately after the operation.
  • [0005]
    What is needed, therefore, is a washing machine that provides improved elimination and deodorization without difficulties and disadvantages of prior art washing machines.
  • DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
  • [0006]
    It is an object of the present invention to provide elimination (of microbes) and deodorization for laundry without adding heat, and to eliminate the restriction that a door cannot be opened during operation of the elimination and deodorization and immediately after the operation.
  • [0007]
    According to a first aspect, a washing machine of the present invention (hereinafter referred to as a “first invention”) comprises a wash tub having an opening, a door for covering the opening, and an electrostatic atomizer. The electrostatic atomizer is configured to produce mist of charged fine water particles by means of electrostatic atomization to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub. In the first invention, the electrostatic atomizer sprays mist of charged fine water particles (radical) into the wash tub and thereby perform elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub. Therefore, it is possible to provide elimination and deodorization for laundry without adding heat, and to eliminate the restriction that the door cannot be opened during operation of the elimination and deodorization and immediately after the operation.
  • [0008]
    According to a second aspect, the electrostatic atomizer of the invention is configured to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry independent of a series of wash operations in response to an elimination and deodorization mode (hereinafter referred to as a “second invention”). The series of wash operations includes a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry. In the second invention, after laundry is loaded into the wash tub, the electrostatic atomizer can be activated by the elimination and deodorization mode. Also in this case, elimination and deodorization are performed with respect to the laundry, and allergen substances such as pollen can be inactivated. Since the mist is especially fine particles each of which is in the order of nanometer in size, the mist can be widely scattered and infiltrate deep into the laundry. Accordingly, elimination, deodorization and inactivation can be effectively performed with respect to odor components, viruses, mold and allergen substances. In addition, it is possible to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to unwashable clothes, stuffed toys, shoes, straw hats and so on. The elimination and deodorization can be performed while the wash tub is utilized as a cloth basket up to washing on the next day. In short, it is possible to provide elimination and deodorization for laundry without adding heat independent of washing, and to eliminate the restriction that a door cannot be opened during operation of the elimination and deodorization and immediately after the operation.
  • [0009]
    In an embodiment of the second invention, the washing machine further comprises a fan located together with the electrostatic atomizer between an air intake line and a discharge line to the wash tub. In addition, the fan is configured to send air into the wash tub when the electrostatic atomizer performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. In this embodiment, since the mist are widely scattered and can infiltrate deep into the laundry, elimination, deodorization and inactivation can be effectively performed with respect to odor components, viruses, mold and allergen substances.
  • [0010]
    In an embodiment of the second invention, the washing machine further comprises a motor. In addition, the washing machine is configured to rotate the laundry in the wash tub by means of the motor when the electrostatic atomizer performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. In this embodiment, since the laundry is rotated (e.g., tumbled), the mist can be sprayed all over the laundry (e.g., clothes or the like).
  • [0011]
    In an embodiment of the second invention, the washing machine further comprises a door sensor for detecting whether the door is opened or closed. In addition, the electrostatic atomizer is configured: to stand by in response to the elimination and deodorization mode; and to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry for a given time. The elimination and deodorization is performed when the door sensor detects that the door is opened and subsequently closed. In this embodiment, it is possible to estimate that laundry is loaded into the wash tub and then the door is closed. Accordingly, the electrostatic atomizer can automatically perform elimination and deodorization and thereby capable of preventing vain operation.
  • [0012]
    In an embodiment of the second invention, the washing machine further comprises: a door sensor for detecting whether the door is opened or closed; and a weight sensor for detecting weight of the laundry in the wash tub. In addition, the electrostatic atomizer is configured: to stand by in response to the elimination and deodorization mode; and to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry for a given time. The elimination and deodorization is performed when the door sensor detects that the door is opened and subsequently closed and the weight detected through the weight sensor exceeds predetermined weight. In this embodiment, since the weight sensor can further detect whether or not laundry is loaded into the wash tub, vain operation can be surely prevented.
  • [0013]
    According to a third aspect, the washing machine of the first invention further comprises a controller (hereinafter referred to as a “third invention”). This controller is configured to sequentially control: a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; and an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. The electrostatic atomizer is activated in case of the elimination and deodorization operation, and then produces the mist of charged fine water particles to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. In the third invention, wash, rinse, spin-drying, as well as elimination and deodorization are sequentially performed. Also in this case, it is possible to provide elimination and deodorization for laundry without adding heat, and to eliminate the restriction that the door cannot be opened during operation of the elimination and deodorization and immediately after the operation.
  • [0014]
    According to a fourth aspect, the washing machine of the first invention further comprises a dryer mechanism for drying the laundry, and a controller (hereinafter referred to as a “fourth invention”). The controller is configured to sequentially control: a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; a dry operation for drying the laundry; and an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. The dryer mechanism is activated in case of the dry operation and then dries the laundry. The electrostatic atomizer is activated in case of the elimination and deodorization operation, and then produces the mist of charged fine water particles to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. In the fourth invention, wash, rinse, spin-drying, dry, as well as elimination and deodorization are sequentially performed. Also in this case, it is possible to provide elimination and deodorization for laundry without adding heat, and to eliminate the restriction that the door cannot be opened during operation of the elimination and deodorization and immediately after the operation.
  • [0015]
    In an embodiment of the third or fourth invention, the washing machine further comprises a motor. The controller controls to activate motor to rotate the laundry in the wash tub when the electrostatic atomizer performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. In this embodiment, since the laundry is rotated (e.g., tumbled), the mist can be sprayed all over the laundry (e.g., clothes or the like).
  • [0016]
    According to a fifth aspect, the washing machine of the first invention further comprises a controller (hereinafter referred to as a “fifth invention”). The controller is configured to sequentially control: an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry; and a series of wash operations including a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry. The electrostatic atomizer is activated in case of the elimination and deodorization operation, and then produces the mist of charged fine water particles to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. In the fifth invention, since elimination and deodorization is performed before wash, wash effect can be improved. Also in this case, it is possible to provide elimination and deodorization for laundry without adding heat, and to eliminate the restriction that the door cannot be opened during operation of the elimination and deodorization and immediately after the operation.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0017]
    Preferred embodiments of the invention will now be described in further details. Other features and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following detailed description and accompanying drawings where:
  • [0018]
    FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a first embodiment of a washing machine, in accordance with the present invention;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 2 is a sectional view of an electrostatic atomizer in FIG. 1;
  • [0020]
    FIGS. 3 and 4 are flow charts of a second embodiment of a washing machine, in accordance with the present invention;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 5 is a flow chart of an embodiment; and
  • [0022]
    FIGS. 6 and 7 are flow charts of a third embodiment of a washing machine, in accordance with the present invention.
  • BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION First Embodiment
  • [0023]
    FIG. 1 shows a first embodiment of a washing machine 1, in accordance with the present invention. This washing machine 1 is what is called a combo washer dyer having a wash mechanism and a dryer mechanism that are controlled by a controller 1 a comprising a microcomputer. The construction of the dryer mechanism is well known to those skilled in the art and is not described in detail herein.
  • [0024]
    The washing machine 1 has a washing machine body (housing) 7 in which a wash tub 2 is put. The wash tub 2 is formed of a water tub 8 and a rotation drum 9 located in the water tub 8. The washing machine 1 further has a motor 10 for rotating the wash tub 2, namely the rotation drum 9. The motor 10 is driven through the control of the controller 1 a. The rotation drum 9 is formed with many small holes. The water tub 8 is connected with a water supply line 11 having a water supply valve (not shown) controlled by the controller 1 a, and a drain line 12 having a drain valve (not shown) controlled by the controller 1 a.
  • [0025]
    The water tub 8 is also provided with a nozzle(s) (not shown) for sending a warm or cold current of air from the dryer mechanism. Accordingly, laundry in the wash tub 2 (i.e., rotation drum 9) can be dried by the warm or cold current of air.
  • [0026]
    The wash tub 2 has an opening 13. The washing machine 1 is provided with a door (hatch door) 4 for covering the opening 13. The door 4 is hinged at the front of the washing machine body 7.
  • [0027]
    The washing machine body 7 is provided therein with an electrostatic atomizer 3 located outside the wash tub 2, namely the water tub 8. The electrostatic atomizer 3 is enclosed in a case 14 equipped with a fan 26, and the atomizer 3 and fan 26 are controlled by the controller 1 a. The case 14 is connected with one end of an air intake hose as an air intake line 15, and the other end is connected with an opening of the washing machine body 7. The case 14 is also connected with one end of an discharge hose as a discharge line 16, and the other end is located at the edge of the opening 13 of the wash tub 2 and also directed into the rotation drum 9.
  • [0028]
    The electrostatic atomizer 3 is formed of a discharge electrode 17, a cooling means for supplying the electrode 17 with water through dew formation on the electrode 17, and a high voltage generator 19 for applying high voltage to the electrode 17 to electrostatically atomize the water (dew drop).
  • [0029]
    FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of the electrostatic atomizer 3. In the first embodiment, the cooling means is a Peltier unit 18 that cools air around the discharge electrode 17 to form dew on the electrode 17 and thereby supplies water (condensation water) to the electrode 17.
  • [0030]
    The Peltier unit 18 has a pair of Peltier circuit boards 27 a and 27 b. Each of the Peltier circuit boards is formed of an insulation board made of high thermal conductivity materials such as alumina or nitride aluminum, and a circuit formed on one side of the insulation board. The Peltier circuit boards 27 a and 27 b are arranged opposite so that the circuit sides face to each other. Many thermoelectric elements 28 of BiTe system are arranged and held between the Peltier circuit boards 27 a and 27 b. The circuits of the Peltier circuit boards 27 a and 27 b connect among neighboring thermoelectric elements 28. The thermoelectric elements 28 are energized through Peltier input lead wires 29 and thereby thermal energy moves from one of the Peltier circuit boards (i.e., 27 a) to the other (i.e., 27 b). The Peltier circuit board 27 a is connected with a cooling piece 21, while the Peltier circuit board 27 b is connected with a radiator 20. In the first embodiment, the radiator 20 is a radiation fin unit. The cooling piece 21 is connected with the base of the discharge electrode 17.
  • [0031]
    The discharge electrode 17 is surrounded by a cylindrical part 30 made of insulation material. The peripheral wall of this cylindrical part 30 is formed with windows 30 a for connecting between the inside and outside of the cylindrical part 30. The top opening of the cylindrical part 30 is also provided with a ring shaped counter electrode 25. This counter electrode 25 is placed opposite to the discharge electrode 17 so that the axis direction of the discharge electrode 17 passes through the center of the ring shaped counter electrode 25. However, the counter electrode 25 may be removed.
  • [0032]
    In the electrostatic atomizer 3, the cooling piece 21 is cooled by energizing the Peltier unit 18. The cooling piece 21 is cooled and thereby the discharge electrode 17 is cooled, so that the electrode 17 is supplied with water (condensation water) through dew formation.
  • [0033]
    Since high voltage is applied between the discharge electrode 17 and the counter electrode 25, coulomb force is applied between the water supplied to the tip of the electrode 17 and the electrode 25. Accordingly, the liquid surface of the water bulges in a cone shape and consequently a Taylor cone is formed. Thus when the Taylor cone is formed, an electronic charge concentrates on the tip of the Taylor cone in which electric field strength becomes large. Consequently, the coulomb force at the tip of the Taylor cone becomes larger and then the Taylor cone is further enlarged. Accordingly, the electronic charge density becomes high, and then the water of the tip of the Taylor cone receives large energy (force of repulsion by the high density of electronic charge). The energy exceeds the surface tension of the Taylor cone (water) and thereby bringing about split and scatter (Rayleigh splitting). Such Rayleigh splitting is repeated, so that mist of negative-charged fine water particles each of which is in the order of nanometer in size is produced in large quantities. The mist is discharged into the wash tub 2 through the discharge line 16. In this operation of the electrostatic atomizer 3 enclosed in the case 14, the fan 26 is activated to take the air in the case 14 through the air intake line 15. Accordingly, since the air flow from the discharge line 16 to the wash tub 2 is produced, the mist is carried by the air flow to be discharged into the rotation drum 9.
  • [0034]
    The washing machine 1 is further provided with a waterproof means (not shown) for preventing the water in the wash tub 2 from flowing into the electrostatic atomizer 3 side through the discharge line 16. The waterproof means is formed of, but not limited to, for example a shutter that is located at the downstream end of the discharge line 16 and can be opened and closed through the control of the controller 1 a. In this case, the shutter is automatically opened when the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated. Similarly, the shutter is automatically closed when the electrostatic atomizer 3 is stopped.
  • [0035]
    The washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to perform (control) the electrostatic atomizer 3, the motor 10 and so on in response to at least a wash mode and an elimination and deodorization mode. That is, in response to the wash mode, the washing machine 1 performs a series of wash operations, namely wash, rinse, spin-drying and dry operations. Also, in response to the elimination and deodorization mode, the washing machine 1 performs elimination and deodorization through the electrostatic atomizer 3 independent of the series of wash operations.
  • [0036]
    The wash mode and the elimination and deodorization mode are selected by pressing a mode selection button in a control panel (not shown) attached to the washing machine 1.
  • [0037]
    When the wash mode is selected, a wash operation is performed in the same way as a prior art washing machine (e.g., combo washer dyer). That is, after the door 4 is opened, laundry is loaded into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9) through the opening 13. When the wash mode is selected after detergent is put in place (e.g., a detergent dispenser with compartments) and then the door 4 is closed, water is automatically supplied to the wash tub 2 and then the rotation drum 9 is rotated and thereby the wash operation is performed. That is, under the control of the controller 1 a, the water supply valve is opened and closed, and the motor 10 is driven. The detergent is also supplied from the detergent dispenser to the wash tub 2. After the wash operation, the rinse operation is performed. In this case, under the control of the controller 1 a, the motor 10 is driven, and the water supply valve and the drain valve are opened and closed. After the rinse operation, the water in the wash tub 2 is drained and then the spin-drying operation is performed. That is, under the control of the controller 1 a, the drain valve is opened, and the motor 10 is driven. After the spin-drying operation, the dry operation is performed. When the dry operation is over, the wash mode (the series of wash operations) is completed and the washing machine 1 stops the operations.
  • [0038]
    On the other hand, the elimination and deodorization mode is performed independent of the series of wash operations. That is, after the door 4 is opened, laundry such as clothes, articles to be deodorized and so on is loaded into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9) without water through the opening 13. When the elimination and deodorization mode is selected after the door 4 is closed, the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated through the control of the controller 1 a. However not limited to this, the elimination and deodorization mode can be selected before the door 4 is opened or while the door 6 is opened. When the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated, mist of charged fine water particles is produced to be discharged into the rotation drum 9 and thereby sticking to the laundry such as clothes and articles in the drum 9. The charged fine water particles constituting the mist are (free) radicals, and accordingly elimination and deodorization are performed with respect to the laundry, and allergen substances such as pollen sticking to the laundry can be inactivated. Since the mist is especially fine particles each of which is in the order of nanometer in size, the mist can be widely scattered in the wash tub 2 and infiltrate deep into the laundry such as clothes and articles. Thereby, elimination, deodorization and inactivation can be effectively performed with respect to odor components, viruses, mold and allergen substances.
  • [0039]
    Therefore, it is possible to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to unwashable clothes, stuffed toys, shoes, straw hats and so on.
  • [0040]
    In the washing machine 1, the elimination and deodorization can be performed while the wash tub 2 is utilized as a cloth basket up to wash on the next day. Accordingly, the wash can be effectively performed. Moreover, odor accumulation and bacterial breeding in the wash tub 2 can be reliably prevented.
  • [0041]
    The washing machine 1 may be provided with a door sensor 5 for detecting whether the door 4 is opened or closed. The door sensor 5 is connected to the controller 1 a, and its door sensor signal is supplied to the controller 1 a. The controller 1 a judges whether the door 4 is opened or closed based on the door sensor signal. In addition, the electrostatic atomizer 3 may be configured to stand by in response to the elimination and deodorization mode, and to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2 for a given time through the control of the controller 1 a. The elimination and deodorization is performed when the door sensor 5 detects that the door 4 is opened and subsequently closed. In case that the elimination and deodorization mode is selected, when the door 4 is opened, the electrostatic atomizer 3 does not perform elimination and deodorization and accordingly useless operation is avoided. On the other hand, in case that the elimination and deodorization mode is selected, a user takes off the clothes and then opens the door 4 to load the clothes into the wash tub 2 and subsequently closes the door 4 and thereby the electrostatic atomizer 3 performs elimination and deodorization for a given time. Subsequently, another user takes off the clothes and then opens the door 4 to load the clothes into the wash tub 2 and subsequently closes the door 4 and thereby the atomizer 3 similarly operates. Accordingly, whenever clothes are loaded into the wash tub 2, elimination and deodorization can be automatically performed with respect to the clothes in the wash tab 2.
  • [0042]
    In an alternate embodiment, the washing machine 1 has a weight sensor for detecting weight of laundry in the wash tub 2 in addition to the door sensor 5. The weight sensor is connected to the controller 1 a, and its weight sensor signal is supplied to the controller 1 a. For example, the controller 1 a judges that laundry is in the wash tub 2 when the weight detected through the weight sensor exceeds predetermined weight. The electrostatic atomizer 3 is configured to stand by in response to the elimination and deodorization mode, and to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry for a given time through the control of the controller 1 a. The elimination and deodorization is performed when the door sensor 5 detects that the door 4 is opened and subsequently closed and the weight detected through the weight sensor exceeds predetermined weight. Thus, the sensors surely detect that laundry is loaded into the wash tub 2, and then the electrostatic atomizer 3 performs elimination and deodorization.
  • [0043]
    Specifically, the door sensor 5 detects that the door 4 is opened and subsequently closed, while the weight sensor detects presence of laundry in the wash tub 2 by detecting weight of the laundry. Accordingly, it is possible to surely judge that laundry (clothes, etc.) is loaded into the wash tub 2. In this case, since the electrostatic atomizer 3 performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry, useless operation by the electrostatic atomizer 3 can be prevented.
  • [0044]
    In an embodiment, the motor 10 is configured to rotate the wash tub 2, namely the rotation drum 9 when the electrostatic atomizer 3 performs elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2. The motor 10 may rotate the rotation drum 9 in one direction, or may rotate the drum 9 in both directions. In this case, since the laundry in the wash tub 2 is rotated (tumbled), the mist can be sprayed all over the laundry. Accordingly, the mist can stick all over the laundry (e.g., clothes or the other articles).
  • [0045]
    In addition, since the fan 26 is worked during the elimination and deodorization mode, mist of charged fine water particles can be widely discharged into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9). Therefore, the mist can stick all over the laundry (e.g., clothes or the other articles) in the rotation drum 9. Moreover, since the mist is sent to the water tub 8 through the small holes of the rotation drum 9, elimination and deodorization can be performed with respect to the exterior surfaces of the rotation drum 9 and the interior surfaces of the water tub 8. In an example, the washing machine 1 has a heater (not shown) for heating the air sent from the fan 26 to the discharge line 16. This heater is controlled by the controller 1 a. In this case, the mist is carried by a warm current of air to be discharged into the rotation drum 9. Herein, though a very small quantity of ozone can be generated when mist of charged fine water particles is produced, decomposition of the ozone can be accelerated by the warm current of air.
  • [0046]
    In an embodiment, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to sequentially perform (control) wash, rinse, spin-drying, dry as well as elimination and deodorization in response to a wash, elimination and deodorization mode (a combo mode). Or the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to sequentially perform (control) elimination and deodorization as well as wash, rinse, spin-drying and dry in response to an elimination, deodorization and wash mode (a combo mode). Each of these washing machines 1 also performs elimination and -deodorization independent of the corresponding combo mode in response to the elimination and deodorization mode.
  • [0047]
    In an embodiment, the washing machine 1 has a wash mechanism but does not have a dryer mechanism. This washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to operate (control) the electrostatic atomizer 3, the motor 10 and so on in response to at least a wash mode and an elimination and deodorization mode. In response to the wash mode, the washing machine 1 sequentially performs a series of wash operations, namely wash, rinse and spin-drying operations. In response to the elimination and deodorization mode, the washing machine 1 performs elimination and deodorization through the electrostatic atomizer 3 independent of the series of wash operations.
  • Second Embodiment
  • [0048]
    FIGS. 3 and 4 show flow charts of a second embodiment of a washing machine 1, in accordance with the present invention. This washing machine 1 is formed in the same way as the first embodiment, but operates in response to at least two modes different from those of the first embodiment.
  • [0049]
    That is, as shown in FIG. 3, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to perform (control) a series of wash operations in response to a wash mode (program) “A1”. The wash operations to be sequentially performed include: a wash operation for performing wash with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; a dry operation for drying the laundry; and an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. Each of the operations is performed in the same way as the corresponding operation in the first embodiment.
  • [0050]
    As shown in FIG. 4, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) also performs (controls) a series of wash operations in response to a wash mode (program) “A2”. The wash operations to be sequentially performed include: a wash operation for performing wash with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; and an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. Each of the operations is performed in the same way as the corresponding operation in the first embodiment. In addition, each of the wash modes “A1” and “A2” can be selected through a mode selection button in a control panel (not shown) attached to the washing machine 1. The washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) automatically performs (controls) a corresponding wash operations in response to a selected mode.
  • [0051]
    The operations of the second embodiment are now explained. After the door 4 is opened, laundry is loaded into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9) through the opening 13. When the wash mode “A1” is selected after detergent is put in place and then the door 4 is closed, water is automatically supplied to the wash tub 2 and then the rotation drum 9 is rotated and thereby the wash operation is performed (see FIG. 3). After the wash operation, the rinse operation is performed. After the rinse operation, the water in the wash tub 2 is drained and then the spin-drying operation is performed. After the spin-drying operation, the dry operation is performed. After the dry operation, the elimination and deodorization operation is performed for a given time. When the elimination and deodorization operation is over, the wash mode “A1” is completed and the washing machine 1 stops the series of wash operations.
  • [0052]
    On the other hand, when the wash mode “A2” is selected, water is automatically supplied to the wash tub 2 and then the rotation drum 9 is rotated and thereby the wash operation is performed (see FIG. 4). After the wash operation, the rinse operation is performed. After the rinse operation, the water in the wash tub 2 is drained and then the spin-drying operation is performed. After the spin-drying operation, the elimination and deodorization operation is performed for a given time. When the elimination and deodorization operation is over, the wash mode “A2” is completed and the washing machine 1 stops the corresponding series of wash operations.
  • [0053]
    In each of the wash modes “A1” and “A2”, the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated at the final operation in a corresponding series of wash operations and then performs elimination and deodorization with respect to washed laundry.
  • [0054]
    That is, when the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated at a final operation, mist of charged fine water particles is produced to be discharged into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9). The mist is widely scattered in the rotation drum 9 and then sticks to washed laundry. Since the charged fine water particles constituting the mist are (free) radicals, elimination and deodorization are performed with respect to the laundry. The mist is especially fine particles each of which is in the order of nanometer in size, and accordingly can be widely scattered in the wash tub 2 and infiltrate deep into the laundry (e.g., the inside of fiber). Consequently, elimination and deodorization are effectively performed.
  • [0055]
    In an embodiment, the motor 10 is configured to rotate the wash tub 2, namely the rotation drum 9 when the electrostatic atomizer 3 performs elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2. The motor 10 may rotate the rotation drum 9 in one direction, or may rotate the drum 9 in both directions. In this case, since washed laundry is rotated (tumbled), the mist can be sprayed all over the washed laundry. Accordingly, the mist can stick all over the laundry.
  • [0056]
    In addition, since the fan 26 is worked during an elimination and deodorization operation, mist of charged fine water particles can be widely discharged into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9). Therefore, the mist can stick all over the washed laundry (e.g., clothes or the other articles). Moreover, since the mist is sent to the water tub 8 through the small holes of the rotation drum 9, elimination and deodorization can be performed with respect to the exterior surfaces of the rotation drum 9 and the interior surfaces of the water tub 8. In an example, the washing machine 1 has a heater (not shown) for heating the air sent from the fan 26 to the discharge line 16. In this case, the mist is carried by a warm current of air to be discharged into the rotation drum 9. Herein, though a very small quantity of ozone can be generated when mist of charged fine water particles is produced, decomposition of the ozone can be accelerated by the warm current of air. In this case, owing to a very small quantity of ozone, the quantity of air flow may be little, and the warm current of air may also be comparatively low temperature.
  • [0057]
    In an embodiment, as shown in FIG. 5, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to perform (control) a series of wash operations in response to a wash mode “A3” in addition to the wash modes “A1” and “A2”. The wash operations to be sequentially performed include: a wash operation for performing wash with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry; a dry operation for drying the laundry; and another elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. In this case, since elimination and deodorization is performed before and after the dry operation, elimination and deodorization can be more reliably performed. In an example, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) may be configured to operate (control) in response to a wash mode including wash, rinse, spin-drying and dry operations and another wash mode including wash, rinse and spin-drying operations in addition to the wash modes “A1”-“A3”.
  • [0058]
    In an embodiment, the washing machine 1 has a wash mechanism but does not have a dryer mechanism. This washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to sequentially perform (control): a wash operation for performing wash with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; and an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry. Each of the operations is performed in the same way as the corresponding operation in the first embodiment.
  • Third Embodiment
  • [0059]
    FIGS. 6 and 7 show flow charts of a third embodiment of a washing machine 1, in accordance with the present invention. This washing machine 1 is formed in the same way as the first embodiment, but operates in response to at least two modes different from those of the first embodiment.
  • [0060]
    That is, as shown in FIG. 6, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to perform (control) a series of wash operations in response to a wash mode (program) “B1”. The wash operations to be sequentially performed include: an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2; a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; and a dry operation for drying the laundry. Each of the operations is performed in the same way as the corresponding operation in the first embodiment.
  • [0061]
    As shown in FIG. 7, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to perform (control) a series of wash operations in response to a wash mode “B2”. The wash operations to be sequentially performed include: an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2; a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; and a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry. Each of the operations is performed in the same way as the corresponding operation in the first embodiment. In addition, each of the wash modes “B1” and “B2” can be selected through a mode selection button in a control panel (not shown) attached to the washing machine 1. The washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) automatically performs (controls) a corresponding wash operations in response to a selected mode.
  • [0062]
    The operations of the third embodiment are now explained. After the door 4 is opened, laundry is loaded into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9) through the opening 13. When the wash mode “B1” is selected after detergent is put in place and then the door 4 is closed, the elimination and deodorization operation is performed by the electrostatic atomizer 3 (see FIG. 6). In this case, mist of charged fine water particles is produced and then discharged into the rotation drum 9. The elimination and deodorization operation is performed for a given time. After the elimination and deodorization operation, water is automatically supplied to the wash tub 2 and then the rotation drum 9 is rotated and thereby the wash operation is performed. After the wash operation, the rinse operation is performed. After the rinse operation, the water in the wash tub 2 is drained and then the spin-drying operation is performed. After the spin-drying operation, the dry operation is performed. When the dry operation is over, the wash mode “B1” is completed and the washing machine 1 stops the series of wash operations.
  • [0063]
    On the other hand, when the wash mode “B2” is selected, the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated and then produces mist of charged fine water particles to discharge the mist into the rotation drum 9. This elimination and deodorization operation is performed for a given time. After the elimination and deodorization operation, water is automatically supplied to the wash tub 2 and then the rotation drum 9 is rotated and thereby the wash operation is performed. After the wash operation, the rinse operation is performed. After the rinse operation, the water in the wash tub 2 is drained and then the spin-drying operation is performed. When the spin-drying operation is over, the wash mode “B2” is completed and the washing machine 1 stops the corresponding series of wash operations.
  • [0064]
    In each of the wash modes “B1” and “B2”, the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated at the first operation in a corresponding series of wash operations and then performs elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9). Also, allergen substances sticking to the laundry are inactivated and removed.
  • [0065]
    That is, when the electrostatic atomizer 3 is activated at a first operation, mist of charged fine water particles is produced to be discharged into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9). The mist is widely scattered in the rotation drum 9 and then sticks to unwashed laundry in the drum 9. Since the charged fine water particles constituting the mist are (free) radicals, elimination and deodorization can be performed with respect to the laundry before wash. The mist is especially fine particles each of which is in the order of nanometer in size, and accordingly can be widely scattered in the wash tub 2 and infiltrate deep into the laundry (e.g., the inside of fiber). Consequently, elimination and deodorization are effectively performed. Also, allergen substances sticking to the laundry can be inactivated and removed.
  • [0066]
    In an embodiment, the motor 10 is configured to rotate the wash tub 2, namely the rotation drum 9 when the electrostatic atomizer 3 performs elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2 in each first operation of the modes “B1” and “B2”. The motor 10 may rotate the rotation drum 9 in one direction, or may rotate the drum 9 in both directions. In this case, since the laundry in the wash tub 2 is rotated (tumbled), the mist can be sprayed all over the laundry before wash. Accordingly, the mist can stick all over the laundry.
  • [0067]
    In addition, since the fan 26 is worked during in each first operation of the modes “B1” and “B2”, namely each elimination and deodorization operation, mist of charged fine water particles can be widely discharged into the wash tub 2 (rotation drum 9). Therefore, the mist can be stuck all over the laundry (e.g., clothes or the other articles). Moreover, since the mist is sent to the water tub 8 through the small holes of the rotation drum 9, elimination and deodorization can be performed with respect to the exterior surfaces of the rotation drum 9 and the interior surfaces of the water tub 8. In an example, the washing machine 1 has a heater (not shown) for heating the air sent from the fan 26 to the discharge line 16. In this case, the mist is carried by a warm current of air to be discharged into the rotation drum 9. Herein, though a very small quantity of ozone can be generated when mist of charged fine water particles is produced, decomposition of the ozone can be accelerated by the warm current of air. In this case, owing to a very small quantity of ozone, the quantity of air flow may be little, and the warm current of air may also be comparatively low temperature.
  • [0068]
    In an embodiment, the washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to operate (control) in response to a wash mode including wash, rinse, spin-drying and dry operations and another wash mode including wash, rinse and spin-drying operations in addition to the wash modes “B1” and “B2”.
  • [0069]
    In an embodiment, the washing machine 1 has a wash mechanism but does not have a dryer mechanism. This washing machine 1 (controller 1 a) is configured to sequentially perform (control): an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub 2; a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; and a spin-drying operation for performing spin drying with respect to the laundry. Each of the operations is performed in the same way as the corresponding operation in the first embodiment.
  • [0070]
    Although the present invention has been described with reference to certain preferred embodiments, numerous modifications and variations can be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the true spirit and scope of this invention.

Claims (11)

  1. 1. A washing machine, comprising:
    a wash tub having an opening;
    a door for covering the opening; and
    an electrostatic atomizer,
    wherein the electrostatic atomizer is configured to produce mist of charged fine water particles by means of electrostatic atomization to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to laundry in the wash tub.
  2. 2. The washing machine of claim 1, wherein the electrostatic atomizer is configured to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry independent of a series of wash operations in response to an elimination and deodorization mode, said series of wash operations including a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry.
  3. 3. The washing machine of claim 2, further comprising a fan located together with the electrostatic atomizer between an air intake line and a discharge line to the wash tub,
    wherein the fan is configured to send air into the wash tub when the electrostatic atomizer performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry.
  4. 4. The washing machine of claim 2, further comprising a motor,
    wherein the washing machine is configured to rotate the laundry in the wash tub by means of the motor when the electrostatic atomizer performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry.
  5. 5. The washing machine of claim 2, further comprising a door sensor for detecting whether the door is opened or closed,
    wherein the electrostatic atomizer is configured: to stand by in response to the elimination and deodorization mode; and to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry for a given time when the door sensor detects that the door is opened and subsequently closed.
  6. 6. The washing machine of claim 2, further comprising: a door sensor for detecting whether the door is opened or closed; and a weight sensor for detecting weight of the laundry in the wash tub,
    wherein the electrostatic atomizer is configured: to stand by in response to the elimination and deodorization mode; and to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry for a given time when the door sensor detects that the door is opened and subsequently closed and the weight detected through the weight sensor exceeds predetermined weight.
  7. 7. The washing machine of claim 1, further comprising a controller that is configured to sequentially control: a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry; a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry; a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry; and an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry;
    wherein the electrostatic atomizer is activated in case of the elimination and deodorization operation, and then produces the mist of charged fine water particles to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry.
  8. 8. The washing machine of claim 1, further comprising: a dryer mechanism for drying the laundry; and a controller that is configured to sequentially control a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry, a rinse operation for performing rinse with respect to the laundry, a spin-drying operation for performing spin-drying with respect to the laundry, a dry operation for drying the laundry, and an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry;
    wherein: the dryer mechanism is activated in case of the dry operation and then dries the laundry; and
    the electrostatic atomizer is activated in case of the elimination and deodorization operation, and then produces the mist of charged fine water particles to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry.
  9. 9. The washing machine of claim 7, further comprising a motor,
    wherein the controller controls to activate motor to rotate the laundry in the wash tub when the electrostatic atomizer performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry.
  10. 10. The washing machine of claim 1, further comprising a controller that is configured to sequentially control: an elimination and deodorization operation for performing elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry; and a series of wash operations including a wash operation for performing wash with respect to the laundry;
    the electrostatic atomizer is activated in case of the elimination and deodorization operation, and then produces the mist of charged fine water particles to spray the mist into the wash tub and thereby to perform elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry.
  11. 11. The washing machine of claim 8, further comprising a motor,
    wherein the controller controls to activate motor to rotate the laundry in the wash tub when the electrostatic atomizer performs elimination and deodorization with respect to the laundry.
US12076833 2007-03-27 2008-03-24 Washing machine Abandoned US20080236208A1 (en)

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