Microwave dryer technology now being developed will add more than speed and efficiency to the laundry appliance. Configured for tabletop use in its latest version, the research will create an entirely new appliance category called the "personal microwave dryer," says the Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, Calif. EPRI's research on countertop units follows its successful development of a full-sized microwave dryer. In addition to being up to 65% faster in drying laundry, the approach is also gentler in terms of temperature. With microwave drying, fabrics get no hotter than 110 F-115 F, EPRI says. That compares with temperatures of 140 F-150 F with conventional dryers. Safety features include an automatic shut off in the event that a stray object such as a cigarette lighter threatens to scorch fabrics or start a fire. In addition, EPRI has developed humidity sensors that will shut the unit off automatically when the fabrics are dry. Market potential: broader than that for conventional dryers, including such new segments as apartment dwellers, dormitory students, upscale hotels, and health clubs.