Something in the oven to help with washday

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The Independent Online
Every dog owner knows that you cannot put your pet in the microwave to dry it when it's wet - but now at least they will be able to dry the dog's blanket with push-button ease.

Microwave clothes driers are currently under development at the US Electric Power Research Institute in California. The domestic version is said to dry clothes 16 per cent faster, while using 15 per cent less energy than a conventional drier. The commercial model, which has a higher power rating, is 66 per cent faster.

The microwave drier is said to be more gentle with fabrics and it removes moisture more quickly at lower temperatures.

About 40 per cent of clothes that require dry cleaning because of shrinkage could be microwaved without damage or down-sizing, according to the researchers. The Institute, which carries out research and development for America's electricity companies, said that its microwave drier design ensures that any metal buttons or zippers will not heat up and burn the fingers of the users.

BRIEFLY Ghostbusters The Independent Television Commission says it has completed tests of a technique that will chase the ghosts from television pictures - an annoyance to TV viewers who live in built up or hilly areas.

A ghost cancellation signal is inserted into television signals and picked up by special units attached to TV receivers. The tests were carried out in Enfield, North London,where viewers have has a severe ghosting problem that dates back to the building of the Canary Wharf skyscraper in London's Docklands. If broadcasters agree to transmit the signal permanently, the first ghost canceller could be introduced by Philips in 1996. An add-on unit would cost about £200, and integrated TV sets would be available in 1997 and cost £25 to £50 more.

Garden menaces The horticultural trade plans to come up with a nationwide plant labelling scheme warning buyers about those which are hazardous.

The scheme will be based on a review by plant experts of the potential toxicity of various species. The study will be carried out by the Royal Horticultural Society, Kew Gardens, and the National Poisons Unit (NPU) of Guy's Hospital, which handles thousands of cases of suspected poisoning due to plants each year.

Furnace proof Scientists in the materials department at Oxford University have developed a technique for applying a film of refractory material to silicon carbide elements used in electric furnaces. It protects the elements at high temperature without reducing their overall efficiency.

At present the elements fail over 1500C, leading to expensive downtime for replacment.

In trials, the coated elements resisted temperatures above 1550C. The inventors say the technique can easily be integrated into production lines.