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LG Electronics allowed to develop eco-friendly liquid CO2 washer

By Lim Chang-won Posted : December 30, 2021, 13:47 Updated : January 3, 2022, 08:03

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SEOUL -- LG Electronics, a major home appliance maker in South Korea, won government approval to test an eco-friendly washing machine using liquid carbon dioxide as a cleaning solvent. The method can reduce the environmental impact of traditional washing machines or dry-cleaning processes, save energy and water, and extend garment life. 

LG Electronics was allowed to test a liquid CO2 washing machine through a regulatory sandbox policy that exempts regulations on new products or services for a certain period of time, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement on December 30. The CO2 washer, which compresses high-pressure gas, is ideal for industrial use due to its large product size.

LG Electronics will carry out a two-year test at its research center to prove safety. If successful, the company will apply for temporary permission to install CO2 washers in shopping mall laundries. A deliberation committee gave special approval for the commercialization of a CO2 washer, citing its eco-friendly characteristics and cases of commercialization by foreign companies like Electrolux, a Swedish home appliance manufacturer.  

At high pressure, CO2 enters a liquid supercritical state and can serve as washing fluid. After cleaning is completed, CO2 goes back to a gaseous state for re-use. The low viscosity and surface tension of liquid CO2 allows for superior pore penetration and can remove contamination without detergent, water, or oil. Unlike conventional washing machines or dry cleaning, the technology yields no wastewater and exhaust gas.

In order to compress and liquefy CO2, the current law requires the installation of a separation barrier which is eight meters from top to bottom, and from side to side, making it virtually impossible to commercialize CO2 washers.

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