Air purification tech company, Molekule, recently announced its first major U.S. retail agreement with Best Buy stores. Molekule devices and filters are now available for purchase at approximately 350 Best Buy locations, online at BestBuy.com and available for curbside pickup.
"Best Buy is a really amazing launch partner for us into retail. They’ve been well known in the consumer electronics space, but I’m excited to see the emphasis on health and wellness," says Molekule CEO Jaya Rao.
"This is shaking up the category for air purification. For [Best Buy] to say that they’re bringing this cutting edge tech to people, in the times we're living in, really represents how they’re thinking ahead of the curve for retail."
Household devices include Molekule Air (designed for rooms up to 600 square feet), Air Mini and Air Mini+ (for rooms up to 250 square feet), retail between $399 - $799 MSRP.
How Molekule works
Dr. Yogi Goswami, Distinguished Professor and the Director of the Clean Energy Research Center at USF, began developing the dual-filtration tech that powers the Molekule Air over 20 years ago in an effort to alleviate the severe allergy-related asthma his son suffered. Molekule was first patented in 2016 and named among TIME Magazine's 25 Best Inventions of 2017.
Molekule devices break down particles to their molecular level. Through photoelectrochemical oxidation (PECO) -- a process that uses UV-A light to activate a catalyst in the air purifier's nanoparticle-covered filter to produce free radicals -- Molekule oxidizes pollutants. The PECO process is demonstrated to destroy larger pollutants such as pet dander, pollen, and mold spores, as well as smaller particles -- including airborne viruses like COVID-19.
83 Degrees last caught up with Molekule in late February, as the U.S. was just beginning to reckon with the COVID-19 pandemic and Molekule was ramping up its testing efforts to explore the air purifier's efficacy against the virus.
Third-party testing indicates Molekule's virus-fighting competence
Independent third-party testing lab, Aerosol Research and Engineering Labs, conducted tests on Molekule's latest product, Air Pro RX, using MS2 Bacteriophage as a proxy for SARS-Cov-2. Multinational assurance, inspection, product testing, and certification company, Intertek, also tested the Air Mini, using the proxy virus, PhiX174. Both proxies are RNA-based viruses with a similar genetic structure to the novel coronavirus.
Testing from both third-party labs indicates Molekule's effectiveness in significantly reducing virus concentrations. The report from Aerosol Research and Engineering Labs notes:
"The PECO filters used in the Molekule Air Pro RX were compared against filters that lacked any mechanism to physically destroy virus particles. Both types of filters were placed in a custom-built airflow system that is designed to aerosolize viruses into the airstream.
The virus species chosen was the MS2 bacteriophage, a common proxy for human pathogens such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2. After collecting the viruses, any viable particles were extracted from the filters and counted to measure destruction efficiency. The PECO filters were examined for the presence of viruses after one hour and after twenty-four hours of catalytic activation and compared to the standard filters.
A large degree of viable viruses was present on the standard filters, but few viruses were present after one hour of activation. Practically no viruses could be recovered from the photocatalytic filters twenty-four hours of activation."
This study and others can be viewed at Molekule's website
Looking ahead: "Clean indoor air for everyone, everywhere"
In 2018, Chicago Mercy Hospital and Medical Center ran a small pilot study
on Molekule air purification tech, in which 23 pediatric rooms were outfitted with PECO air purifiers. Following what the hospital deemed a successful study, Mercy purchased units for its entire hospital system.
Molekule's latest product, Air Pro RX, launched at the height of the pandemic in April with FDA 501(k) Class II clearance for medical settings for airborne viruses and bacteria. As the U.S. looks at options for re-opening, indoor air purification is a topic some industries are eager to explore.
"We’ve been speaking to other sectors -- not just hospitals, but grocery stores and other places where people are aware of airborne viruses," Rao says. "We're now seeing it adopted in places like restaurants and dental offices -- even more than we'd envisioned."
When COVID cases and concerns do eventually ebb, Rao hopes this recent interest in the value of and equitable accessibility to clean indoor air remains a trend in public health.
"We started with a lofty goal of clean indoor air for everyone, everywhere -- so we’re just at the tip of the iceberg on what we can do, and where we can go, with that. But things like this pandemic; the consecutive wildfire seasons in California -- these are pointing to how much the idea of air quality, especially indoor air quality, has been overlooked. I think people are becoming aware that air quality is something to take a deeper and more nuanced approach. And from our perspective, it’s helping to educate a group of people, which is what we’re trying to do," Rao says.
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