Sleek, modern, and standing only 23″ tall, the Molekule air purification unit may look similar other air purifiers; however, it isn’t anything like the competition. To accompany the “unobtrusive” design and lightweight portability, the Molekule is an innovation above existing HEPA-filter-based air purifiers. It uses patented PECO (photo-electrochemical oxidation) technology to filter indoor air at the molecular level, not trapping particulates and toxins, like other purification units, but actually removing them from the surrounding air altogether. MoleKule also employs smart technology, with an app that can be downloaded to your phone, so that it can be controlled by a mobile device.
I became intrigued by these units, because, let’s be honest, they look really cool, but, more importantly, because they also claim to filter particulates from the air 1000 x smaller than those removed by HEPA filters. Each Molekule has the ability to completely purify the air in a 600 square foot room in an hour’s time, when continuously running. Molekule’s price point is competitive with other quality air purifiers ($799 a unit), which includes your first year’s filter replacement subscription, a $99 value. So, does Molekule live up to its billing? And what about mold? How does Molekule do with mold? Since mold is enemy #1 for me and my family, I wanted to dig a little deeper.
First, I admire the stylistic design of the unit. It reminds me of the aesthetic innovations that Dyson brought to the vacuum. It is always impressive to see beautiful design accompany a significant scientific innovation. With HEPA technology dating back to The Manhattan Project during WW2, MoleKule seems to understand that not everyone wants a clunky or noise making appliance in their decor. But, while stylish, scientific innovation and indoor air quality seems to still take precedent. One observation I had when reviewing their website was the fact that they sold out in the pre-order phase and seem to be continually selling to exceed expectations. This gives me confidence that people are using, having success with and informing friends, family and social media that the devices work and are worth the investment.
Now, I am probably one of the hardest sells out there, especially when it comes to air filtration and any device I am putting into my home to safeguard my family against mold and other indoor air pollutants. I am particularly skeptical about filtration technology that seems to address the entire gamut of indoor allergens—mold, dust, bacteria, viruses—but doesn’t advertise a clear understanding of the physical remediation and cleaning that is also required to make in indoor environment safe for the long term. In other words, a great air filtration system can do wonderful things for a home, but if there is a systemic mold problem, merely filtering the air is like trying to bale water from a sinking boat—it’ll keep you floating for a bit longer, but eventually, you are still going to sink. Thus, I reached out to the company to do a little more of my own investigating about how Molekule works.
What I found is that the company has a very compelling backstory. The inspiration surrounding certain start-ups and innovative products always seems to catch my attention. The technology appears to be well validated and it has been scientifically proven to work. Molekule also has well established investors. More important for safety, the product seems to address some important pitfalls of some air purification techniques. (Those being ozone production, power consumption, and allergen disposal, just to name a few.) Finally, Molekule has assembled an impressive array of development partners such as the EPA, University of Florida, and the Department of Defense.
The Molekule Story
MoleKule was invented out of necessity by Dr. D. Yogi Goswami, a globally recognized expert in solar technology. Dr. Goswami’s son, Dilip, suffered from asthma and allergies and struggled on a daily basis to find relief. They say that the best inventions come from the inventor scratching his/her own itch and inventing something that they desperately need that is not available on the current market. That is exactly what drove Dr. Goswami’s creation of an air purifier that would alleviate his son’s symptoms and improve his life. Since Dr. Goswami’s background is in solar technology, it is only natural, that he turned to light to clean allergens from the air. As it turns out, light-initiated, molecular filtration removes more kinds of indoor air pollutants than HEPA, carbon or electrostatic filters. As described on the company’s website, “PECO technology works when light shines on a specially-designed nanoparticle coated filter. This action of light on the surface of the filter creates a reaction that is able to completely oxidize pollutants in the air. Through third party independent testing and through Molekule’s own internal tests, the technology has shown great efficacy in the destruction of airborne bacteria, viruses, mold, and VOCs. These test results show complete destruction of pollutants and no remaining residue on the PECO filter surface.” The absence of pollutants and residue on the filter is what is so unique and groundbreaking about Molekule. It is the first air filtration device to literally eradicate allergens from the indoor air.
To prove the technology, when tested in an independent laboratory, Molekule was able to completely remove VOCs, bacteria, viruses, and mold from the test space air. (Note: After reading all of the studies and white papers, it is unclear whether it destroys mycotoxins or MVOCs as well). A link to this study can be found HERE. Another interesting fact about Molekule is that it does not use or emit ozone in its purification process; rather, it eliminates ozone from the air just as it does other pollutants. Most air filtration units on the market today use an ionization process to negatively charge the air particles. Ozone is a byproduct of ionization. As more is known about the effects of ozone on human health (even small amounts of inhaled ozone can cause respiratory problems, among others), having a unit that does not emit ozone is becoming increasingly important to those seeking to make their indoor air safer and healthier for breathing. After all, removing allergens may not be enough for some very sensitive patients, if you are replacing them with a potentially dangerous chemical, right?
Molekule’s Mold Specifics
(Note: It is important to understand that purifiers will NOT kill all of the mold growing in your home. They are designed to take the mold spore counts down to safe levels. If you have a mold issue, it is because of moisture intrusion—leak, etc.—mold in your HVAC system, or high levels of humidity and not enough ventilation in the home. It can also be caused by contaminated furniture, clothing or rugs being brought into the home. What air purifiers do help with is preventing future mold growth. Mold colonies grow from mold spores which land on damp surfaces. Since air purifiers remove mold spores in the air, this helps to prevent new mold colonies from growing. So, air purifiers, especially after a successful remediation, or when used in a safe home, can be a great long term help with mold.)
Now we get down to mold and mold filtration. There was actually a mold-specific scientific study done on Molekule that is published on their site, but in order to get really focused on its treatment of mold in the indoor air, I wanted to ask the company some of my own questions. What follows is my interview with Jaya Rao, Co-founder and COO of Molekule. I hope it will address some of your same questions, if you have any, and help you to make the best decision to see if this is the right purification unit for your home.
Me: Thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions. I am excited to bring the information about Molekule to my readers. I have been directly affected by high-levels of mold in my indoor air to the point that it made me and my family very sick. Thus, I am going to focus on mold in my line of questioning.
Since we now know that nearly all cases of chronic sinusitis are caused by an immune reaction to mold, Molekule’s performance, when it comes to mold is very important to me. Can you tell me a little more about how Molekule filters mold spores from the indoor air?
Jaya: Mold spores spread through the air and find surfaces to grow on. Molekule’s PECO technology does not just trap, but rather destroys indoor air pollutants, like mold spores. Current filters, like HEPA filters, are only able to trap some mold spores in the air, but these mold spores subsequently grow on the filter, multiply, and re-enter the air. The PECO breaks down the molecular structure of any organic compound, like mold spores. This process works when light shines on a specially designed nano-coated surface, generating a catalytic reaction on this surface that breaks down these pollutants. In fact, Molekule scientists have been able to see this destruction process using a scanning electron microscopic, where they were able to capture images of an Aspergillus niger spore (black mold) on the surface of the nano-filter as it was completely destroyed.
Me: That is pretty cool. Why is not trapping these spores in the filter so important?
Jaya: While a filter can trap larger pollutants, like mold, those pollutants can then continue to live on the filter surface and proliferate. In the case of bacteria, even if it dies on the surface of the filter, it can subsequently release even more harmful endotoxins (from its skin) back into the air. Mold is an even bigger concern, as it will feed on other trapped particles, grow on the filter surface, and release new spores into the air stream.
Me: If a home tested positively for dangerous mold, would Molekule make rooms in that home safe to inhabit until a family could get out or find another place to go? In other words, in a contained space, can Molekule completely filter dangerous levels of mold from the air?
Jaya: Because Molekule’s technology can destroy airborne mold spores, Molekule can indeed help make a mold-infested home’s air safer to breathe. That said, additional measures should always be taken in order to completely eliminate the mold from the home, particularly if the mold is known to be growing in a particular area. We’ve recently written a blog post on this very subject. (Note: You can check out that post here.)
Me: How quickly can Molekule filter mold from indoor air?
Jaya: The time will vary depending on the size of the room, placement of the device, and the mode in which you run the device. In addition, the size of the source of the mold spores affects the amount of mold spores in the air, and will impact the time it takes for Molekule to filter the air. In a large room (600 square feet- a Studio), Molekule can provide a full replacement of room air in under an hour. In a smaller room (150 square feet – a bedroom), it can provide full air replacements in under 12 minutes.
Me: Were any of the test subjects particularly sensitive to mold? I’m curious because my family was exposed to a very toxic mold situation and now we are all extremely sensitive to it.
Jaya: We have tested with many people who have suffered from mold allergies. In fact, one of the biggest points of feedback we have gotten from these people is that they wake up feeling much less congested and the ‘musty’ smell in the room feels like it has lifted.
(Note: A video that Jaya shared with me about Dr. Gordon, one of Molekule’s test subjects who deals with mold sensitive patients, can be viewed HERE.)
Me: Is there any odor in the particles that are emitted from the unit as bi-products?
Jaya: Molekule’s technology has been rigorously tested by third party laboratories to demonstrate that it does not emit any secondary pollutants, like ozone. Independent testing has not just confirmed that Molekule doesn’t produce ozone but attested that Molekule even breaks down ozone in the air. Many customers report that as a result of using the Molekule, the air smells ‘crisp’ and ‘clean.’ This is particularly common for those who live in moldy environments. We are so used to breathing air that can be up to 5-100 times more polluted indoors, that we forget what it feels like to breathe fresh and clean air. When pollutants that you’re used to breathing are no longer present, each person gets a new experience of the indoors.
Me: I am also concerned with excess moisture, because we try to keep humidity around 50% inside our home to prevent mold growth. Does using Molekule increase indoor humidity? The reason for my question hinges on the fact that the information I have read on Molekule states that water molecules are released as bi-products of the particulates being destroyed.
Jaya: Our technology does not affect the humidity level in your room. Trace amounts of H2O molecules are formed as part of the chemical reaction inside the device and are released into the air. However, a change in humidity level is not measurable.
Me: Why is Molekule a better air purification choice for mold sufferers than something like an IQ Air? Does it work as well as whole-house filtration?
Jaya: While air purifiers with HEPA filters (like the IQ Air) capture dust and some other airborne pollutants, they are unable to destroy them, so these pollutants continue to live on the filter and re-enter the air. What’s more, VOCs and viruses are far too small for a HEPA filter to catch. Molekule’s PECO technology does not trap, but rather destroys pollutants that pass through the filter. Molekule is also the only technology that, unlike HEPA, works on the broad spectrum of pollutants regardless of how small they are (this includes pollutants that are 1000 times smaller than what a HEPA filter can catch).
Well, there you have it. My mold-centered “chat” with Molekule’s COO. I feel like the device is definitely worth a try, especially if you live in a smaller space, or are wanting a unit for one specific room in your home. It seems to be geared towards condo or city living, rather than whole-house filtration at this point. In a future interview, would love to have the opportunity to ask them about improvements, features and products in the pipeline. The platform may just be a springboard to many products and innovations. The idea of eliminating allergens and microbes seems like it could be disruptive to the air purifier industry. Is this their intent? Do they desire to produce more styles or higher output for commercial applications? I’m so interested to see if they have the strategy to be the air purifier of choice for medical professionals that treat environmental illness. Hopefully that second discussion can happen soon. Jaya? Are you game?
So now, I ‘d love to hear from YOU. Have you tried Molekule? Do you have any questions about it that you would like for me to ask? Please comment and let me know.