Humanities › History & Culture How the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer Works Share Flipboard Email Print Dyson History & Culture Inventions Famous Inventions Famous Inventors Patents & Trademarks Invention Timelines Computers & The Internet American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Tuan C. Nguyen Updated January 10, 2020 Regarding the hair dryer, renowned inventor Sir James Dyson had this to say: "Hair dryers can be heavy, inefficient, and make a racket. By looking at them further, we realized that they can also cause extreme heat damage to hair." With this in mind, Dyson would go on to challenge his team of engineers, designers, and creative minds to come up with a solution. The result, the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, was unveiled at a press event in Tokyo in 2016. It was a culmination of four years, $71 million, 600 prototypes, more than 100 patents pending, and rigorous testing on so much hair that if laid out as a single strand would stretch 1,010 miles. The result, though, was quintessential Dyson: a compact, sleek design that quietly packs several finely tuned high tech advancements meant to address some of the major flaws with most hair dryers currently on the market. Easy and Well-Designed Like many of his inventions, Dyson's first foray into the beauty industry combines his signature cutting-edge sensibilities with a pleasing, minimalist aesthetic. Instead of vents and other clunky segmented parts, his dryer is comprised of a smooth handle that simply extends toward a circular ring sitting on top. When directly facing the blower end, the dryer resembles another signature Dyson product—the bladeless fan. That’s not by coincidence, of course. Dyson’s modernist take on hair drying is powered by a smaller version of the hidden motor used inside the company's line of uber-quiet cooling machines. Called the V9, this motor is the company’s smallest and lightest motor to date. It can run at a speed of over 110,000 rotations per minute, fast enough to produce ultrasonic sound waves that register as inaudible to the human ear. Miniaturizing the technology to the point where it's roughly the diameter of a quarter also allows the product designers to fit it inside the handle to ensure proper weight balance. That way the user doesn't feel the strain of having to hold and maneuver a top-heavy object. Fixing Common Problems Besides enhanced comfort and ease of use, the Supersonic dryer was designed from the ground up to eliminate some of the most vexing issues people have with hair drying. For instance, blown air from hair dryers tends to be uneven, and the turbulence can cause strands of hair to tangle—this is more often the case with those who have less than straight hair. Dyson's Air Multiplier technology—found in both the Supersonic dryer and its line of bladeless fans—creates a high-velocity air stream by sucking air upward toward the rim where it's joined with air brought in through the back and then channeled outward in a horizontal direction. The result is a smooth, even flow of air. Another common problem is that overly hot air can ruin the surface texture and resiliency of natural hair to the point where shampoo and conditioning treatments can’t undo the harm. To prevent heat damage, Dyson engineers added heat sensors that gauge and help regulate the airflow temperature by continuously relaying readings at a rate of 20 times per second to the main microprocessor. The data is used to adjust the motor speed automatically so that temperatures are kept within a safe range. The Price of Excellence Rounding out the list of notable enhancements, the dryer also includes a removable filter at the bottom of the handle to catch lost strands of hair (like a lint trap) and three attachments that connect magnetically to the blower head. There’s the smoothing nozzle, which spreads a wide air stream across the surface to avoid messy, displaced strands as you gently dry your hair; the concentrator nozzle, which creates a more focused stream of air that’s ideal for shaping different parts; and the diffuser nozzle, which reduces the frizz of curly hair by distributing air softly without disturbing the curls. The bottom line, though, is if any of us really needs a fancy, futuristic hair dryer or if such benefits are ultimately little more than a luxury. With a $400 price tag, the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer is a hefty investment. The question of whether or not the benefits are worth the cost is up to you.