Indian scientist’s solution for son’s asthma is now an air purifier that destroys pollutants

What an Indian scientist created as a solution for his son’s asthma a few decades back has spawned itself into a new solution to tackle indoor pollution. Molekule’s PECO technology, based on Dr Yogi Goswami’s work in the US, has now been launched in India.

“What my father did was look at a solar groundwater purification technology that he was working on at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and how he could apply that to air purification,” explains Jaya Rao, co-founder and CEO of Molekule. Her brother Dilip Goswami, to cure whose asthma Dr Goswami stared working on an indoor air purifier, is now President and CTO of this family-run company.

Rao explains that while most companies try to capture the air and purify the particles in it, Molekule’s approach is to destroy, breaking down the chemical pollutants instead of physically capturing them. “The problem is if you don’t destroy or chemically convert them effectively, you can create harmful byproducts. And this is why my father spent 20 years in research looking at how do you crack that code at that microscopic level, how do you actually break apart the chemical bonds of these pollutants,” she explains Dr Goswami’s unique Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) technology that makes this company’s air purifiers different.

Rao agrees that it is a risky proposition releasing things that “try to break down the pollutants” and that is why their approach is to do this within the device. “Like the traditional capture technology, we have a filter, but we coat our filter with a catalyst. When that catalyst sees light from LEDs inside of the device, it creates a chemical reaction on the surface of the filter. So as we are capturing things on the filter we are also breaking them down on the filter,” Rao explains. “That’s essentially what makes it safer because you are keeping this reaction contained to your filter and not releasing it into the air.”

Molekule’s air purifiers then release this cleaned air into the room. “We have designed the product with a 360-degree air intake… that allows us to take air from all sides and then we eject through the top back into the room,” she says, adding that typically it takes about 40 minutes to clean and recirculate the air in a room.

Rao says her purifiers are able to do what others can’t and that is breaking down the chemical pollutants and not just capture the dust and the particulate matter. She says the sensors in conventional purifiers only capture the particles it can see and you need laboratory-grade sensors to see anything smaller than PM2.5, and her product is better off because it just breaks down the entire gamut of pollutants whether is it small or not.

Rao agrees that the air purification industry “plays with smoke and mirrors” often as it is very hard to bring out the science and the rigour to this space. ”So our biggest solution to that is to go to the science to publish tests to work with some of the top national laboratories across the world in testing this against a whole range of pollutants, be it viruses, be it chemical pollutants. One thing that’s really important to us as a company is we are fully transparent with those tests so anybody can read those test reports. There’s nothing to hide.”

Started in 2015, Molekule now has 134 people. Their first product was launched in 2017. “We have been growing really strongly in the US and mostly on the strength of our customer experience so a lot of that is through word of mouth.”

Rao says it is important for them to launch in India, because of her family’s roots. She is confident the product will be successful in India where along with severe pollution levels, the purifiers also have to deal with dust.

While the company has brought its Air Mini to Indian at Rs 37,999, it does have a bigger product line. “Overall your product portfolio spans about five products right now. PECO is the platform technology and can exist in many different embodiments.”

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