Five nanometer diamonds as viewed by a scanning electron microscope (Photo: University of Warwick)
Chemical structure of soap - the left end has the structure of an oil, while the right end has a structure that is attracted to water (Image: Smokefoot)
Schematic structure of a micelle. The hydrophilic end of the surfactant molecules rest in contact with the aqueous solution surrounding the micelle, while the hydrophobic (or lipophilic) chains remain in the oil droplet enclosed by the micelle (Image: Emmanuel Boutet via Wikimedia)
Diamonds in your washing machine can make your clothes sparkle (Photo: Shutterstock)
We all do laundry, or are perhaps lucky enough to have someone who does laundry for us. Most of that wash is done in warm or hot water, because, regardless of the claims made for laundry detergents, most detergents don't work very well in cold water. Unfortunately, the wash water has to be heated, and given an average wash temperature of about 40°C (104°F), this uses around 5-10 kWh per load. If both the temperature of the water and the amount of water used in clothes washing could be cut in half, nearly a trillion kilowatt-hours of energy could be saved each year - 0.5% of the world's total energy use. All that is stopping us is finding better laundry detergents. That's where the diamonds come in.
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