Ultrasonic diffusers are the latest in a long line of different modern ways of dispersing fragrances around the home and in a bid to find out how they work, we’ve gone all scientific! We’ve split it up into two sections, the first is a quick overview of how Ultrasonic Diffusers work, and the second was written by our inner scientist.
How Do Ultrasonic Diffusers Work? – Quick Answer
When you turn on an ultrasonic diffuser, it begins to vibrate water molecules at a specific frequency in the water bath. This causes the water to heat and bubble, producing steam. However, this is special steam in that the size of the bubbles of steam that are produced are much smaller than those that might be made in the kitchen – as the steam begins to rise up through the water bath, the ultrasound breaks the bubbles apart to form an incredibly fine vapour. It is this, along with the oil that contains the perfume, that leaves the diffuser. The oil itself in most models is heated in the water bath, and so is similarly gently released as a very, very fine vapour. The advantage of the ultrasonic diffuser is in these very small particles – not only does it produce a much cleaner scent, it also makes sure that the perfume that gets into your home stays good for longer and doesn’t become a problem after continued use.
How Ultrasonic Diffusers Work – Long, Scientific and Historical Answer
Candles and reed diffusers have been around considerably longer than ultrasonic diffusers and that, to some extent, is part of their charm. However delicious the flame might be on a candle, it is far from the cleanest way of delivering perfume into your home and getting the absolute most from a specific fragrance. Whether you’re burning a wick or using a reed diffuser, chemically a very similar process occurs. Fragrances are stored within candle wax and reed diffusers as a complicated mixture of chemicals within an oil solvent. When the wax is burned or the diffuser left out in the open, the oil is liberated into the air slowly in tiny, microscopic globules that contain the scent. The oil that isn’t directly burnt (and so escapes into the air with the enormous mixture of complicated chemicals intact) moves through the air currents in your home and eventually fills the air. This is a great approach and has been used since the dawn of candle making to fill an area with fragrance but, by modern scientific standards, is certainly not the most efficient or cleanest way to liberate perfume.
The issue is that most of the oil that is released by the candle will sink out of the air eventually and make its way into fabrics, onto surfaces, and generally out of where you can smell it and into where you have to clean it. The chemicals that make up a fragrance will begin in time to decompose, and the scents that were so fresh and vibrant may begin to lose some of their potency. In addition to this, after repeated use of different candle perfumes in a household, it will begin to lose specificity. In other words, your home will begin to smell of ‘perfume’, rather than of a specific perfume. It is because of this phenomena that perfumeries and perfume workshops must be kept completely clean, or specific perfumes cannot be smelt properly by the experts. Yet another problem comes from the wick of a candle – the burnt wick is made mostly of carbon dioxide and water, along with other small gas molecules. Basically, these gasses smell of classical bonfire smoke, and, after repeated uses, can really smother an area in that scent. In addition to this, small gas molecules like carbon dioxide are the most likely to become trapped in fabric and so are much more difficult to air out than most.
Ultrasonic diffusers are the long-term answer to these problems, however. Because of the special way these machines dispense perfumes and scent, there is no risk of oily mixtures getting trapped in fabrics and ending up on surfaces, and scents will not mix together over a long time to form a general perfume-y fragrance. Ultrasonic diffusers all work in more-or-less the same way, although of course models and specifics can vary. Long story short, ultrasonic diffusers form fragrance-containing airborne oil globules that are much, much smaller and more concentrated than those given off by a candle or reed diffuser. This smaller size means that the oil will stay in the air for much longer before moving into fabrics, and the fragrance oils within the globules will decompose faster and more fully, meaning that the longer-lasting general ‘perfume’ scent will not be a problem without the help of several ultrasonic diffusers working all at once!
But how does the ultrasonic diffuser actually form these tiny globules? Well, that’s where the word ‘ultrasonic’ comes in. Sonic – and ultrasonic – is more-or-less another way of saying ‘vibration’. Any noise that us humans hear is just a wave of vibration as it passes through the air; different frequencies and complexities within the sound are simply the different frequencies of vibration. This often causes some confusion, as heat is similarly the vibration of molecules. The difference is that sound is a controlled type of vibration that moves as a wave at a specific frequency, whereas heat is just the normal vibration of molecules all of the time, and does not have a specific frequency. Put really simply, if sound is a wave in the sea then heat is all of the movement in the water that isn’t a wave.