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在超声波清洗机中，将待清洁的物体放置在含有合适溶液的腔室中（根据应用，在水性或有机溶剂中）。在含水清洁剂中，通常加入表面活性剂（例如洗衣洗涤剂）以使非极性化合物如油和油脂溶解。内置于腔室中或降低到流体中的超声波产生换能器通过改变尺寸与在超声频率下振荡的电信号一起在流体中产生超声波。这在罐的液体中产生压缩波，其将液体“撕开”，留下数百万个微观“空隙”/“部分真空气泡”（空化）。这些气泡由于巨大的能量而破裂;实现了大约5,000 K和135 MPa的温度和压力; 然而，它们非常小，只能清洁和去除表面污垢和污染物。频率越高，空化点之间的节点越小，这允许清洁更复杂的细节。
超声波换能器显示~20 kHz和~40 kHz堆叠。活性元素（靠近顶部）是两个锆钛酸铅环，用螺栓固定在铝连接角上。
Design and operating principle
In an ultrasonic cleaner, the object to be cleaned is placed in a chamber containing a suitable solution (in an aqueous or organic solvent, depending on the application). In aqueous cleaners, surfactants (e.g., laundry detergent) are often added to permit dissolution of non-polar compounds such as oils and greases. An ultrasound generating transducer built into the chamber, or lowered into the fluid, produces ultrasonic waves in the fluid by changing size in concert with an electrical signal oscillating at ultrasonic frequency. This creates compression waves in the liquid of the tank which 'tear' the liquid apart, leaving behind many millions of microscopic 'voids'/'partial vacuum bubbles' (cavitation). These bubbles collapse with enormous energy; temperatures and pressures on the order of 5,000 K and 135 MPa are achieved; however, they are so small that they do no more than clean and remove surface dirt and contaminants. The higher the frequency, the smaller the nodes between the cavitation points, which allows for cleaning of more intricate detail.
Ultrasonic transducers showing ~20 kHz and ~40 kHz stacks. The active elements (near the top) are two rings of lead zirconate titanate, which are bolted to an aluminium coupling horn.
Transducers are usually piezoelectric (e.g. made with lead zirconate titanate (PZT), barium titanate, etc.), but are sometimes magnetostrictive. The often harsh chemicals used as cleaners in many industries are not needed, or used in much lower concentrations, with ultrasonic agitation. Ultrasonics are used for industrial cleaning, and also used in many medical and dental techniques and industrial processes.