A simple device has been created by a student that could make washing machines greener, cut emissions, reduce fuel costs and make them easier to install.

The contraption, devised by 22-year-old Dylan Knight from Nottingham Trent University, is designed to replace the block of concrete that holds the drum in place during spin cycles, which typically weigh around 25kg.

If it comes as news to you that there's a large slab of concrete in your washing machine then you'll now know why they're so heavy and hard to move.

The breakthrough takes the form of an empty plastic container that replaces the concrete and only fills with water once it's installed. According to the student inventor it is just as effective at holding the washing machine drum in place.

"We found it worked as good as a concrete counterweight, stopping the spinning drum from heavily vibrating the machine," said Knight.

An estimated 3.5 million washing machines are sold in the UK each year. If manufacturers were to install the new device over the concrete block, not only would it reduce weight by a third, the knock-on effect of the lighter machines would result in a potential saving of 45,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide during transportation as well as reducing fuel consumption.

Washing machine invention environment
A typical washing machine (left) uses concrete blocks weighing around 25kg to hold the drum in place. The lighter plastic alternative is seen on the right. NTU

"This sustainable solution not only reduces cost and energy needed for transportation, but also provides ergonomic and health and safety benefits to those physically handling washing machines," said Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh, who also worked on the project.

As well as that, Knight makes further compelling argument by saying "concrete is actually quite bad for the environment due to the CO2 released when it's produced".

The solution is so simple even the inventor himself questioned that it must have been thought of before. However, it appears not, and now the invention which is being developed with product design company Tochi Tech is being pitched to appliance manufacturers in the hope new machines could make for a greener, cleaner future.