Demand for these filters, which have 3 times the airflow of earlier models, is growing in places like California that continue to battle wildfires. Since the start of the year, the state has fought 7,900 wildfires that have burned more than 3.6 million acres. The fires that started August 15 have claimed 26 lives. But the fires have also spewed unprecedented amounts of pollution into the air, affecting millions of residents.
San Francisco-based Molekule raised $58 million in February to expand its business with a transformative technology that sucks a wide range of pollutants out of the air and destroys them. It attacks viruses, mold, and bacteria, according to research by Aerosol Research and Engineering (ARE) Laboratories.
Like the previous models — the Molekule Air Mini, the Air Mini+, and the larger Molekule Air — the new business-focused filter uses the company’s patented photoelectrochemical oxidation (PECO) technology that was developed by Dharendra Yogi Goswami, a recognized expert in solar technology.
But Yogi Goswami decided to switch gears to focus on asthma affecting his son Dilip, who now serves as CEO of Molekule. Yogi Goswami, who is chief technology and science adviser at Molekule and a professor and director of the Clean Energy Research Center at the University of South Florida, started research related to the project at the University of Florida more than 20 years ago.
“Our product launches tend to be pretty timely addressing a lot of issues that we’ve seen,” said CEO Dilip Goswami, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We’ve now got a device that can sense the different particulates and the different sizes, particularly in the range of smoke. It’s timely because we’ve been having these wildfires.”
Dilip Goswami said demand has been strong for the product since its initial launch in 2017. Since that time, the fire seasons have gotten more intense and have spurred more demand. He said the company has plenty of supplies in stock.
“We’ve been prepared for this and have been able to keep moving supplies,” he said.
You can see the types of pollution by looking at an app that goes with the filter.
He said the professional filter is good to use in hospitals, hotels, dentist offices, restaurants, schools, and general businesses.
The new filters are built with 3 times the airflow, three sizes of particle sensing, and multiple ways to protect against pollutants.
How Molekule cleans the air
Poor air quality has been a prominent global issue for the past several years. The American Lung Association states that more than 140 million people in the U.S. are living with unhealthy air, while the World Health Organization claims nine out of 10 people across the globe breathe polluted air. And that’s before this summer’s wildfires polluted the air at record rates.
An advancing industrial sector, a heating climate, and a growing population have all contributed to the deterioration of air quality in developing and developed countries alike, with the United Nations saying air quality is the most important environmental health risk of our time.
PECO represents a big update to the industry-standard High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter created in the 1940s. Unlike traditional air purifiers that trap pollutants on a filter, where they can continue to grow and be released back into the air, PECO promises to destroy pollutants, eliminating them completely. It breaks down the pollutants at a molecular level, something most filters don’t do, and eliminates particles that are 100 times smaller than those captured by HEPA filters.
Molekule’s patented PECO technology has been validated in multiple third-party laboratory studies. Most recently, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab) Indoor Environment Group found that the Molekule Air purifier effectively reduces common volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including formaldehyde, limonene, and toluene, as well as ozone, a pollutant highly regulated by the EPA.
ARE Laboratories also found that Molekule’s PECO technology was able to reduce the concentrations of bacteria, viruses, mold, and endospores in the tested air by more than 99.99%. Most recently, nationally recognized testing laboratory Intertek found that Molekule’s PECO technology was able to reduce 95% of particulate matter 0.3 microns in size and larger.
Molekule has more than 100 employees in San Francisco and Florida. Rivals include LIGC in Israel, as well as makers of traditional HEPA air filters.
The new Air Pro has more sensor capability to break detected particles down into three sizes, from PM10 (pollen) and PM2.5 (dust) to smaller than PM1 (smoke) and down to particles 0.3 microns in size. It can also increase people’s understanding of the particles in the air they breathe.
“We’re excited we’ve got a device that builds on our earlier devices,” Dilip Goswami said. “It has deeper particle sensing capabilities and increased airflow that allows it to address larger spaces.”
In addition to a 6-speed manual mode, Air Pro delivers two Auto-Protect modes, standard and quiet, to automatically regulate fan speed based on particle levels sensed in the air, all while keeping noise low.
You can control the airspeed with an app and check your air particle levels and filter status. The app can also tell you when it’s time to change your PECO filter. Each Air Pro is designed to clean 1,000 square feet of space.
Air Pro was recently adopted by former NFL tight end, actor, and Dancing with the Stars contestant Vernon Davis, who is also a Molekule brand ambassador and the franchise owner of five Bay Area Jamba Juice locations, where he is integrating the devices.
The filter is available for preorders today through Molekule.com, BestBuy.com, and Amazon.com. Air Pro retails for $1,200, with filter subscriptions running $100 for a six-month supply. Dilip Goswami said the quality of the replacement filters has been getting better over time.
[Updated: 12:59 p.m. 9/22/20 with CEO comments].