Son’s asthma leads USF professor to develop first molecular air purifier

Distinguished USF professor Yogi Goswami developed the first molecular air purifier that has already sold out across the country.

Distinguished USF professor Yogi Goswami’s son, Dilip, sparked his initiative to develop the first molecular air purifier that has already sold out across the country.  

“(He) is asthmatic from birth and has a lot of allergies," said Goswami, who also serves as the Director of the Clean Energy Research Center. "We could take care of his food allergies by avoiding whatever he was allergic to. Unfortunately, there were triggers in the air we could not do anything about."

His motivation led him to attend conferences that advertised sessions on indoor air quality and additional devices for cleaning air. Quickly realizing the current technology on the market only filtered and circulated air, he took immediate action to eliminate all harmful airborne particles.

In 1995, while working at the Tyndall Air Force Base, he invented a filtration system to clean contaminated groundwater.   

Goswami’s epiphany expanded to utilizing this technology to improve air quality.

“The only difference would be instead of using the sun, we’d have to use a light of an appropriate wavelength,” he said.  

Twenty years later, his invention of Molekule has emerged as an innovative technological achievement.

Using light to cause a catalytic reaction, the purifier is able to completely disinfect the air of bacteria, viruses, mold and other spores to oxidize the particles to carbon dioxide and water. Not only has Goswami considered these pathogens, but also volatile organic chemicals in the air to be destroyed by the technology.

“We have a lot of them in our air from paints and other surface finishes," he said. "It causes long-term problems, for sure, but for some people they are short-term problems."

The first Molekule prototype was tested in Dilip’s bedroom. Showing immediate positive feedback, more were built to aid additional family members. Goswami’s daughter, Jaya Rao, suffered severe headaches after moving to the Tampa Bay area. Since then, the product has been able to alleviate her headaches. As Molekule has received more rave reviews, marketing for the device expanded from Goswami’s home.

As exposure of Molekule increased, funding for marketing and distribution followed.

“The capital group in the San Francisco Bay area, SoftTech VC, allowed the company to hire top talent,” he said.

With the marketing and branding for Molekule in San Francisco, along with construction for the device overseas, Goswami has still managed to work closely with his family while maintaining and evolving the product.

As co-founder of the company, Goswami cites the success would not have been possible without those involved. He credits his son and daughter, who are CEO and COO respectively, for Molekule.

USF students have also been able to collaborate on this technological opportunity. One of Goswami’s former students, Dr. Phil Myers, is now working for the company as a Principal Research Engineer.

Another former student, Dr. Yangyang Zhang, worked closely with Molekule for his doctoral dissertation. While developing this product with Goswami in USF laboratories, the university filed and now owns the patent. The technology Zhang developed will be incorporated into the future of Molekule, according to Goswami.

Molekule has made a substantial impact in the Interdisciplinary Science Building. The system regulates the central air conditioning in Goswami’s lab to cleanse the air of harmful chemicals. Demonstrating effective results, the longevity, quality and structure of the product allows for prolonged durability against chemical pollutants in the lab.

“The company recommends the catalytic filters be changed twice a year," Goswami said. "And the pre-filters, which filters out the large dust particles, (must) be changed every three months."

The internal light source attracts and captures these unwanted air particles. LED lights were deliberately chosen for the convenience of extended use, with no need to change the light for three to five years.

Currently sold out, Molekule is accepting applications for a wait list. The list price for the product is $799 and the pre-order price is $499. Customers will receive the device in January 2017. For those who pre-order, an additional price of a $99 subscription is recommended for replacements of catalytic filters and pre-filters needed for full a year.

As Goswami reflects on his work, he remains true to the science that inspired him in 1995.

“We hope this changes the paradigm of what we expect for indoor air," he said. "And eventually everyone will have this kind of technology in air-conditioned buildings rather than simple filters."

Goswami’s advice for USF students, “If you get ideas on new technologies, definitely pursue them — that’s how inventions are created.”