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All Shook Up

A new mixing technology based on low-frequency sound waves could save billions of kilowatt-hours for energy-hogging industries like chemical processing. It’s a simple idea: a motor-driven bar vibrates in a chamber filled with liquids or gases, causing sonic waves that mix the materials (photo). The low frequencies (typically below 100 hertz) are gentler than those of existing high-frequency sonic systems, which can damage delicate polymers. “It’s like hitting a tuning fork and sticking it into a bucket of water,” says Richard Talley, an engineer at Montec Research, the Butte, MT-based outfit that developed the system with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The first industrial-sized blenders using the low-frequency sonic technology will shorten mixing times by about 60 percent, according to the company. Montec is talking with companies in a number of industries dependent on mixing processes, including mining, waste treatment and petroleum.

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