How Vacuum Cleaners Work

Cyclone Vacuums and Robotic Vacuums
James Dyson with the Root Cyclone™ DC07
James Dyson with the Root Cyclone™ DC07
Photo courtesy Dyson

One recent vacuum-cleaner variation is the so-called "cyclone vacuum." This machine, developed in the 1980s by James Dyson, doesn't have a traditional bag or filter system. Instead, it sends the air stream through one or more cylinders, along a high-speed spiral path. This motion works something like a clothes dryer, a roller coaster or a merry-go-round. As the air stream shoots around in a spiral, all of the dirt particles experience a powerful centrifugal force: They are whipped outward, away from the air stream. In this way, the dirt is extracted from the air without using any sort of filter. It simply collects at the bottom of the cylinder.

The Root Cyclone™. High volumes of air simultaneously move through several cyclones, providing higher, continuous suction power.
Photo courtesy Dyson

The cyclone system is a marked improvement on traditional vacuum cleaners -- there are no bags to replace and the suction doesn't decrease as you suck up more dirt.

Robotic Vacuums

Until recently, no matter how powerful the vacuum, someone still had to be there to push it around. Enter the robotic vacuum. These little gadgets clean all by themselves, thanks to a combination of motors, sensors and a navigation system. To explore one in more detail, check out How Robotic Vacuums Work.

In the future, we are sure to see even more improvements on the basic vacuum-cleaner design, with new suction mechanisms and collection systems. But the basic idea, using a moving air stream to pick up dirt and debris, is most likely here to stay for some time.

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