Molekule co-founder speaking to Auburn students, public Feb. 5 via virtual seminar

Published: February 05, 2021
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Noted Auburn University engineering alumnus Yogi Goswami, director of the Clean Energy Research Center at the University of South Florida and co-founder of industry-disrupting air purifier manufacturer Molekule Inc., will make a virtual return to the Plains on Friday, Feb. 5.

Goswami, who earned both a master’s degree in 1971 and a doctorate in 1975 in mechanical engineering from Auburn, will speak via Zoom to mechanical engineering students on solar photocatalysis, the underlying process in Molekule’s patented photo-electrochemical oxidation—or PECO—technology, an innovation that has become even more invaluable amid a viral pandemic.

Tilted “Environmental Applications of Solar Energy and other Innovations,” Goswami’s seminar begins at 1 p.m. CST and is open to the public. To watch, visit https://auburn.zoom.us/j/4465550646.

While HEPA filter technology, which was developed in the 1940s, remains suitable for capturing dust, mold, smoke and other large particulates, smaller pollutants and pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can still pass through conventional air purifiers.

Meanwhile, Molekule’s professional grade purifier, a fast-growing favorite in medical facilities, actually satisfies Food and Drug Administration performance criteria for use not just in capturing, but destroying SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19. Recently conducted laboratory tests at the University of Minnesota determined that more than 99% of a SARS-CoV-2 surrogate virus was inactivated after just a single pass through a Molekule Mini unit.

“With other filtration devices, bacteria and viruses can stay viable on the filters and get back into the air, and mold can continue to grow on the filter,” Goswami said. “But through PECO, Molekule destroys organic compounds at the molecular level so that they are permanently eliminated.”

Goswami ultimately traces development of the game-changing innovation to his time at Auburn.

“Even though this application isn’t powered by solar energy, it got started from solar,” he said. “And my initial interest in solar energy began at Auburn”—specifically, outside of an Auburn gas station.

“I didn’t have a car, but in 1973 the oil embargo by the Arab oil-producing countries had the lines at some gas stations sometimes a mile long,” Goswami said. “Cars were waiting for gas, running out of gas. So, with that in the background, I started thinking about ‘what is our future in terms of energy?’ Our professors at Auburn started looking into solar energy right around that time, and offered a course on solar energy. Just as I was about to finish my Ph.D., I took that course. I knew that was the area I wanted to pursue in the future.”

Goswani would go on to author more than 400 papers on renewable energy, literally writing the book—and 21 more—on the topic, with a special, thought-leading emphasis on solar. Since 2002, he’s also edited the peer-reviewed Solar Energy Journal.

In 1993, while the director of the University of Florida’s Solar Energy and Energy Conversion Laboratory, Goswami’s successful efforts to decontaminate groundwater at Tyndall Air Force Base earned him international attention thanks to heavy news coverage by CNN and NBC News.

The process that did the dirty work? Solar photocatalysis—the “precursor,” as Goswami calls it, to PECO.

In 2017, its first year on the market, Molekule made Time Magazine’s list of the year’s best inventions. After that, it didn’t take long.

“I was watching the Today Show one day, and they showed a picture inside [host] Savannah Guthrie’s house,” Goswami said. “I told my wife, ‘Look, there’s a Molekule.’

“And, then, there was the supermodel who talked about it. I can’t recall her name.”

That would be Kate Upton, who in 2019 sang the Molekule’s praises to the Wall Street Journal. Having it in her house with a new baby, she said, made her feel like a good mom.

It made Chris Moody, a partner at venture capital firm Foundry Group, feel like a good husband.

Moody, a 1990 electrical engineering graduate from Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, was an early investor in Molekule.

“My wife, Sarah, doesn’t really like new technology and she tends to roll her eyes a bit when I bring home new gadgets to test,” Moody said. “For the past 25 years, she had started sniffling around 5 a.m. from allergies. That first morning with Molekule, she slept till 8 a.m. and hasn’t sniffled a morning since. After a few days, she ordered three more for our kids’ bedrooms.”

There are currently seven Molekule units in the Moodys’ home.

“I’ve never met anyone who loves science more than Yogi,” Moody said. “He spent his career becoming one of the most respected scientists in the field of renewable energy, and yet I think he’ll ultimately be more known for his work as the inventor and entrepreneur behind Molekule.”

Moody said he plans to tune in Friday.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.