Small ripples to accomplish giant tasks

By passing sound and microscopic air bubbles down gentle streams of unheated water, without chemicals, our streams can remove bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other contaminants without damaging the object being cleaned. The sound excites tiny ripples on the walls of the air bubbles, and these do the work we need to tackle some of the humanity's greatest challenges.

Applications of this technology can reduce infection risks wherever water is used to rinse. Because it uses only sound, air and water, without needing a specific chemical agent, and since the sound does not travel down the sink into the wastewater systems, then unlike the use of conventional antimicrobial treatments the use of such technology does not so readily promote the rise of AntiMicrobial Resistance (AMR). Without effective interventions, AMR is predicted to cause an extra 10 million fatalities per year by 2050. We can extend food shelf life (currently up to half of the world's food spoils before consumption), and by 2050 the world needs to feed an extra 2 billion people.

Over three decades of fundamental scientific discovery by Professor Leighton were required to fulfill the goal of revolutionizing the way stream of water clean and transform other surfaces. As a result, wherever water (or other liquid) cleans in a stream, its ability to clean is enhanced by the use of SWT’s nozzles.

Closeup of a splashing wave


Fitted to water taps and faucets, the technology cleans from day 1 of any outbreak of infectious disease: it does not need to wait the 2 months to identify a pandemic, a further week to identify the genetic code of the infectious agent, or wait 12-24 months to get a vaccine. It does not require specialist training to adopt: its use is as easy as turning on a tap.

In times of pandemic, when existing supply chains are broken so that bleach, detergent, alcohol and soap does not reach end-users or are delayed in being set up the ability to decontaminate skin and surfaces with limited consumables will be critical.

If soap is present, SWT’s nozzles can make it clean more effectively, producing greater cleanliness in the limited time people devote to cleaning hands etc. When supply chains fail, it enhances the ability of water to clean without soaps.

Sloan Water Technology is being supported by Innovate UK to develop its water-taps so that they can combat upcoming pandemics before they turn into catastrophes. This is vital: the virus behind COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is the 6th lethal virus with pandemic potential to jump from animals to humans since the year 2000.

Dark ocean waves
  • Medical
    • Surgical Instruments
    • Medical Procedures
    • Dental
    • Antibacterial
  • Household
    • Grease
    • Baby Equipment
    • Tools
    • Foodstuffs
  • Industrial
    • Pipework
    • Packaging
    • Rail Components
  • Biological
    • Marine Biofilms
    • Farming
Closeup of a calm wave


1989: Professor Leighton discovers a new ultrasonic signal and identifies its source to be surface waves rippling on the walls of underwater gas bubbles.

Pulsing the sound enhances bubble activity

1989: Professor Leighton discovers ways in which pulsing the sound field can enhance the bubble activity, which leads to a long line of research on pulsing sound fields to enhance the effect the bubbles have on targets.

Living cells

1990: Professor Leighton begins to investigate how acoustically-excited bubbles might affect living cells, human and otherwise, including effects on tumour cells.

Theory on how sound forces bubbles to penetrate cracks

1990: Professor Leighton published on theory on how sound drive bubbles towards the surfaces they need to treat. This theory is later refined in 2018 through collaboration with with Professor Maksimov from Vladivostok to derive include the effect of the surface waves themselves.

Climate change

1992: Professor Leighton starts to use the acoustic excitation of surface waves on the bubble wall to count and size the number of bubbles in the ocean, which leads him to:

  • Identify key parameters needed for global climate models to calculate how oceans affect climate by asking as a sink or source for greenhouse gases;
  • Design sensors that in 2020 were placed by European-wide teams on North Sea seabed to monitor for leaks from Carbon Capture and Storage reservoirs.

How sound fields in water behave when surrounded by air

1999: Professor Leighton, his colleagues and students research a new theory for sound interaction with porous solid targets (also used for osteoporosis and bone health monitoring).

Theory on how sound stimulates surface ripples on bubble walls

2001: Professor Leighton collaborates with Professor Maksimov from Vladivostok to derive the theoretical conditions for generating the surface ripples, refined in 2012 to highlight the resonances responses.

How sound fields in water behave when surrounded by air

2003: Professor Leighton and students publish on how sound fields in water behave when surrounded by air, and how microscopic natural particles in the water affect this.

Flow around the bubble

2004: Professor leighton starts to predict and measure flow around the bubbles, caused by the acoustically-excited surface waves.

Radar and sonar

2004: Professor Leighton's use of sound to detect bubbles for climate change leads him to:

  • Invent the world's only sonar that can detect mines in bubbly shoreline water;
  • Invent a radar for detecting IEDs and buried catastrophe victims;
  • Explain dolphin and whale behaviour;
  • Design sensors for exploring oceans on other worlds.

How to send sound down curved columns of fluid

2009: Professor Leighton researches how sound can transmit down curved columns of fluid, publishing (to protect commercially-useful material) only in terms of how voices sound on other worlds.

Coupled waves

2012: Professor Leighton and his team publish on sound traveling down tubes using coupled waves, and use it to produce bubble counter for words most powerful pulsed neutron source (Oak Ridge, Tennessee). Craig Dolder, who has been working on coupled waves for his Ph.D. in Austin Texas, travels to Montreal, Canada where Prof Leighton is receiving the 2013 Helmholtz-Rayleigh Interdisciplinary Silver Medal of the Acoustical Society of America, and discusses joining the team.

First applications

2014: On receipt of Rayleigh Gold Medal of the Institute of Acoustics, Professor Leighton publishes on how the technology is effective at cleaning kitchens, bathrooms and baby equipment.

Controlled bubble generation

2015: Professor Leighton and collaborating chemists publish on controlled bubble generation using electrolysis.

The Acoustic Bubble

In a lecture for the prestigious Royal Society, Professor Leighton discusses the potential of his research to combat everything from climate change to infection.

Watch the lecture