How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works
 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
 
Question 815

How does a dishwasher machine work? — WW, Bochum, Germany
A dishwasher is really a number of simple machines that work together to clean dishes. These machines are controlled by a mechanical or electronic timer and include an electrically operated water valve, a water level sensor, one or two water pumps, a thermostat, an electric heating element, one or more rotating spray nozzles, and a fan.

The cycle begins when the timer sends electric current through a coil of wire in the water valve, making that coil magnetic and pulling the water valve into its open position. Water flows then flows from the high pressure in the water line to the atmospheric pressure in the cleaning chamber. When the water sensor detects that the dishwasher is adequately filled, it shuts off current to the valve and the valve closes.

The thermostat measures the water temperature and may delay the start of the cycle if the water is too cool. If so, it directs electric current through the heating element, where that current's energy is converted into thermal energy and transferred to the water. When the water is hot enough, the cycle continues.

During the cleaning cycle, one or more pumps operate. They add energy to the water and increase its pressure. This high-pressure water flows slowly to the rotating nozzles and then accelerates to high speeds as it enters the narrow openings and sprays out into the low-pressure cleaning chamber. As the high-speed water collides with the dishes and slows down, its pressure rises again and begins to exert substantial forces on the food particles. The food particles are pushed off the dishes and fall into the bottom of the dishwasher. Soap added to the cleaning water forms tiny spherical objects called micelles that trap and carry away fats that would otherwise not mix with water. At the end of the cycle, the water, food particles, and fat-filled soap micelles are pumped down the drain.

The cleaning cycle may repeat with fresh water and is then followed by a rinse. A soap-like surfactant may be added to the rinse water to lower its surface tension and prevent it from beading up on the dishes. When the pumps have removed the last of the rinse water, a fan begins to blow air over the dishes. The heating element may heat this air to assist evaporation. The water molecules leave the surfaces of the dishes and become gaseous water vapor. The dishes are left clean and dry.

         

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