# Molekule - The air purifier that literally destroys toxins - ??

#### kyphysics

molekule.com is the website

I'm wondering if anyone has heard of these air purifiers. They are very costly compared to your standard Honeywell type that can be bought at a Big Box or Home Improvement store. The standard types are anywhere from $150-$400-ish. These Molekule purifiers are like \$750. But, they purport to be better and operate different. They sounded amazing upon first review to me, but I'm not a science person and wonder about the legitimacy of the idea/tech.

Instead of trapping particles like most air purifiers do (which they argue can remain on the filter and grow there and get re-released back into the house or surrounding environment), Molekule claims to suck the particles in and literally DESTROY them. I was particularly interested in this as we've been hit with mold in the house. Molekule says it sucks the mold spores in from the air and breaks them down ("kills them" ????) at the particle level so they are not even mold spores anymore? It claims to do this with article particles too that helps with asthma, allergies, etc.

Is this scientifically possibly? Chemistry-wise? Not sure what the discipline would be, but just wondering, b/c it might be a decent home solution (both preventative and actually killing toxins actively).

Appreciate the feedback and thoughts!

Related Biology and Medical News on Phys.org

#### BWV

anything that uses the word 'toxins' in its advertising is crap

#### kyphysics

anything that uses the word 'toxins' in its advertising is crap
That was my wording actually. Still hoping for a more scientifically educated take for whether this tech is possible.

On their website, they say it's won:

Popular Science 10 Greatest Home Innovations of the year
Time Magazine 25 Best Inventions of 2017
Edison Awards Silver New Product of 2017

Yogi Gaswami (a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida...and now at USF) is said to have worked two decades on the science. I saw he had a Wikipedia page and he seems like a legit person.

#### BWV

Well the particle destruction is nice, but all the energy it takes to accelerate the mold particles to .999C and smash them together can really put a dent in your electric bill

#### kyphysics

Well the particle destruction is nice, but all the energy it takes to accelerate the mold particles to .999C and smash them together can really put a dent in your electric bill
I would normally smile or laugh at what I perceive to be good humor (trust me, I get it), but given the health problems me and my family have faced from mold, I can't right now.

I know it's probably unnecessary to say this, but I did not mean "destroy" in the literal sense (or what I perceive you to mean by smashing particles). I was using a kind of colloquial, everyday phrasing of things. The website puts it in a more technically correct way, I believe. The purifier seems to chemically break down these pollutants, including mold spores, into harmless elements.

#### BWV

I would normally smile or laugh at what I perceive to be good humor (trust me, I get it), but given the health problems me and my family have faced from mold, I can't right now.

I know it's probably unnecessary to say this, but I did not mean "destroy" in the literal sense (or what I perceive you to mean by smashing particles). I was using a kind of colloquial, everyday phrasing of things. The website puts it in a more technically correct way, I believe. The purifier seems to chemically break down these pollutants, including mold spores, into harmless elements.

That says basically that Hepa filters are just fine and no added benefit for Molekule

#### Rive

Is this scientifically possibly? Chemistry-wise?
Just a short check around the web, but the only possible 'extra' of that molekule thing seems to be a low power UV LED stage between two classic filters.
UV is indeed known to be able to tear some chemical bonds.
UV LEDs are also used to clean water. I don't know the power density required for real effect: thus, I have doubts that this low power thing would be able to do anything useful, but the theory behind is solid.

The only real question for me if I would like the particles just filtered (classic HEPA), or being smoked and then filtered - with whatever broken down fragments having high chance to escape the next filter.

My humble opinion is that it's quite a luck that it has a pre-filter so not too much thing will be smoked by that UV: and also the low power prevents it generating O3 => mostly harmless.

Last edited:

#### jim mcnamara

Mentor
UV used to filter input air in vents leading to a hospital operating room.

UV would have a similar effect on black mold spores as it does for bacteria, absorption spectra notwithstanding.

I do not think that a free standing device in an open room is going to have the same effect on bacteria/spores in the air. When compared to a closed room vented by a single UV filtered system. Period. Not to mention "toxins", whatever they are.

Sounds like we have a bogus hype for a device.

#### BWV

also i have a UV zapper thing in central AC unit- which you could likely get installed for the price of a Molekule

#### dsaun777

also i have a UV zapper thing in central AC unit- which you could likely get installed for the price of a Molekule

#### kyphysics

I don't know the power density required for real effect: thus, I have doubts that this low power thing would be able to do anything useful, but the theory behind is solid.
Interesting. I would have figured that science inventions got tested for their claims. Is there not a federal regulatory industry that tests inventions for their effectiveness (like we have with pharmaceutical drugs)?

The only real question for me if I would like the particles just filtered (classic HEPA), or being smoked and then filtered - with whatever broken down fragments having high chance to escape the next filter.

My humble opinion is that it's quite a luck that it has a pre-filter so not too much thing will be smoked by that UV: and also the low power prevents it generating O3 => mostly harmless.
I apologize for not being able to read your wording here correctly maybe...Are you saying that the design of the device may not work so well, because it has a pre-filter, which might not allow enough particles to get to the UV stage? If so, I thought pre-filters (at least with my air purifier) only filter out large particles and that smaller particles still make it to the "next level." That's what my Honeywell TRUE HEPA air purifier says. It supposedly filters out larger stuff and then the small particles like mold spores go to the next stage, which is the TRUPE HEPA filter, where it gets trapped.

I figured the Molekule did the same with the pre-filter and mold spores would make it through and get zapped.

But, even so, you're saying that the "strength" of the zapper might not be high enough to break down mold spores (or, maybe not a lot) and that they could just get re-released by into the air on the vent/exhaust side?

And, you're saying it's a safe system, b/c no ozone is produced, right? (I did see the website said no ozone is created).

#### kyphysics

also i have a UV zapper thing in central AC unit- which you could likely get installed for the price of a Molekule
Wow - didn't know these exist. I'll have to look into it and tell family (who will be paying).

Any potential harm/side-effects from having these UV zapper things? I thought UV can harm humans? Totally safe design with these AC UV zappers?

#### kyphysics

UV used to filter input air in vents leading to a hospital operating room.

UV would have a similar effect on black mold spores as it does for bacteria, absorption spectra notwithstanding.
"absorption spectra" - What does that mean, jim mcnamara?

Thanks for the article. Hospitals really are amazing when it comes to this stuff. I am reading about hospital grade vacuums right now - called S-Class. They exceed even TRUE HEPA. Although, they are more common in Europe than the U.S.

I do not think that a free standing device in an open room is going to have the same effect on bacteria/spores in the air. When compared to a closed room vented by a single UV filtered system. Period. Not to mention "toxins", whatever they are.

Sounds like we have a bogus hype for a device.
Hmmm, so you think a house would not be "sealed" off enough to have as good of an effect using a free-standing device like Molekule vs. a sealed type of environment in a hospital room where there is only one-way air-flow through a single venting system?

But, wouldn't it still work - just not to the same "perfect" or high-level degree as in a hospital?

I think if it worked just a small bit, it could still be worth it.

Last edited:

#### BillTre

Gold Member
2018 Award
Tissue culture rooms and fish water systems both use UV irradiation as a part of controlling unwanted life forms.
UV's effectiveness depends upon several factors: intensity, spectrum (Absorption indicates that wavelengths are being absorbed.
Absorption is determined by molecules and the wavelength of their absorbance.
Molecules have to absorb UV in order to be effected by it (means of energy transfer).
The important wavelength is that of DNA's UV absorption, ~260nm, and is therefore the wavelength that messes-up DNA molecules and thus their genetics), length of exposure, cleanliness/opacity of medium (cloudy water doesn't pass UV well).
Long term or stronger UV exposure can cause plastics to breakdown (fading and cracking). This should affect the selection of room finishes, in room designs.
Larger organisms tend to be less effected by UV.
Different organisms can have very different sensitivities to UV.

A standard feature in tissue culture rooms and TC hoods are UV lights that turn on when not in use (UV not good for eyes; safety switches turn off UV when room occupied).
These will to some extent kill or damage any microbes in the air or on surfaces. The UV light however will not reach all possible surfaces in most rooms since there will be a lot of shaded areas. Its only going to realistically reach the more open areas. Dust could be stirred up from these areas. The UV won't be a particularly high dose with a quick effect, but the lights will be on for hours and hours each day. A lot of time for damage to accumulate.

Its always a good idea to filter your air or water before using UV. Dust particles can provide micro-organisms shading from the UV light source, reducing its effectiveness.

We just closed the vents coming into rooms. Maintaining a UV system in a vent system sounds like a nightmare. I think a HEPA air supply would be much more effective, more dependable, and probably easier to maintain.

There are also many methods for sterilizing rooms by a fogging type method. I've tried a couple.
They generally involve cleaning the room. Removing easily oxidizable materials, opening drawers etc., sealing up the room, and setting off some sprayer in the room to fog it with different oxidizers (bleach, chemically "enhanced" bleach, vaporized H2O2). Parts of optics and electronics can get damaged in these treatments, however, it's been claimed that computers can be sterilized by vaporized H2O2 while running.
There's also the alternative chemical Hot Zone method of sterilizing a room with vaporized (by heat) paraformaldehyde. This sounds easy.
Formaldehyde is used in histology to turn tissue into something like leather by binding together biochemical components of tissues. This makes them easier to study! In the air, it will react with many biochemicals in living cells, including proteins and nucleic acids. I believe the formaldehyde method is OK with optics and electronics, but not sure. Venting would be a problem. Probably use a activated carbon filter.

These approaches work best in rooms that have been designed for these purposes with good vent valving, good/easy/quick door sealing, possible alternative air sources, ability to vent room to outside or fume hood, room finishes resistant to the sterilizers, electrical outlets designed for easy/safe cleaning. Germ warfare rooms are probably built with these considerations. I think future hospitals should be designed with these kind of features in mind. This would allow periodically sterilization of hospital areas to deal with drug resistant microbes and persistence of particular infectious agents.

There are ozone (O3) generators that us UV illumination of high concentration O2 to make the ozone.
Unwanted ozone can be removed with by charcoal filtration (activated carbon).

#### jim mcnamara

Mentor
@russ_watters is an HVAC engineer and if he has worked hospitals he would have first hand experience. Anyway there is a rigorous way to determine air turn over in a house or a building. If there were none you would asphyxiate due to CO2 buildup. More people more buildup. I cannot recall what russ said about this but total replacement of the domestic air volume is on the order of 4 hours. (Please correct me).

The point is: the air is refreshed more or less constantly to achieve this goal.

#### jim mcnamara

Mentor
'absortption spectrum' refers to the wavelength of light (of UV or whatever) that is absorbed. Light not absorbed is reflected and has no effect - for what is meant here.

#### DaveC426913

Gold Member
As previously mentioned, many aquarium and pond setups have UV sterilization. I believe they are effective.
It is at least within the realm of possibility that UV sterilization could work in an air filter system.

#### jim mcnamara

Mentor
@DaveC426913 - No, UV sterilization of air flow is a fact for hospitals. See the NIH link above.

#### DaveC426913

Gold Member
@DaveC426913 - No, UV sterilization of air flow is a fact for hospitals. See the NIH link above.
? You say 'no' and then point out an example. Not sure what you're saying.

I can see it being effective in a large hospital installation; I was a little dubious about whether a small semi-portable device could do the job - that's why I referred to pond/aquarium setups.

Not sure what the article concludes
"Testing two of the ACs showed that no additional air cleaning was provided with the operation of an internal UV-C lamp; the internal UV-C lamps, however, inactivated 75% of fungal spores and 97% of bacteria cells captured in the air filter medium within 60 min. "
Does that mean it was effective? Or not?

#### jim mcnamara

Mentor
Yes, you are right the link is confusing. This is a discussion from a hospital in Ontario, they do have UV.
The eACH rate for the HEPA-UVGI in-room air cleaner was statistically significantly greater when the UV lights were on compared with when the UV lights were off. (P < .05). However, subsequent experiments could not attribute this to the UVGI. Consequently, the results are inconclusive and an estimate of effect (benefit) is uncertain.
--- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3382390/

Kind of vague what subsequent means here. I've seen these lamps at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque.
Watched as the tech removed filters, replaced the UV lamps. Sterilized. Interesting.

There is not much in the literature, @russ_watters can give us the best answers.

#### Ygggdrasil

Gold Member
Interesting. I would have figured that science inventions got tested for their claims. Is there not a federal regulatory industry that tests inventions for their effectiveness (like we have with pharmaceutical drugs)?
For the most part, not in the United States. Pharmaceutical drugs are a very special case where the FDA fairly strictly regulates drugs for safety and efficacy. But once you get away from drugs, there is very limited regulation. For example, health claims for dietary supplements (e.g. vitamins, herbal treatments, alternative therapies like homeopathy, etc.) are not checked by the FDA for safety and efficacy as long as they don't make specific claims about treating a disease (e.g. they can say their supplement "promotes heart health" but they cannot say that it "treats high blood pressure") (https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/dietary-supplements/fda-regulations.html). Even FDA approval of medical devices is much more lax than FDA approval of drugs (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/opinion/the-fdas-medical-device-problem.html).

For the most part, consumer devices like the molekule air purifier would not undergo little to no independent testing to determine whether it actually works as advertised.

#### Rive

Are you saying that the design of the device may not work so well, because it has a pre-filter, which might not allow enough particles to get to the UV stage? If so, I thought pre-filters (at least with my air purifier) only filter out large particles and that smaller particles still make it to the "next level.
The pre-filter in that molekule thing closely resembles actual HEPA filters (never had any actual piece of them in my hand, I can refer only to available pictures/video from the net). It is definitely not the common pre-filter from HEPA based air purifiers.
So, based on this what I intended to say was that the UV stage would indeed get less particles (of any kind) in this setup - and that makes it more or less unnecessary. Maybe it can deal with some smell or chemicals. Without extensive testing the effectiveness (I mean: additional effectiveness!) of the UV stage there is questionable.

That UVGI thing referred here previously - that's the real deal.

Not sure what the article concludes
"Testing two of the ACs showed that no additional air cleaning was provided with the operation of an internal UV-C lamp; the internal UV-C lamps, however, inactivated 75% of fungal spores and 97% of bacteria cells captured in the air filter medium within 60 min. "
Does that mean it was effective? Or not?
I guess that means they could prove the long-known effectiveness of UV - again. But the air remained ~ as it was before... Kind of expected I guess: all the surface which hosts most of the harmful stuff and needs cleaning/disinfection is outside. These small units are only to keep airborne material in check on long term (hours). You can't expect much more from that kind of low airflow. That requires more robust units (like the central ACs and such).

We got a small HEPA based air purifier recently, and it was quite disappointing. Regardless of the time it was active the dust (expected to land on the filter) still gathered everywhere. At the end we threw a classic standing/rotating fan into the mix: the fan kept the dust fly so the purifier could filter it

Last edited:

#### jrmichler

I was particularly interested in this as we've been hit with mold in the house.
Mold is caused by moisture. If the relative humidity (RH) inside the house is over 60%, mold is possible. If the relative humidity is higher, mold is likely. Basements are usually cooler, so have higher RH and more mold.

Air conditioning systems do a good job of removing moisture when the outside temperature is high. When the outside temperature is such that the AC only runs a short time, then the AC cannot remove enough moisture to keep the inside humidity low. The solution is to add a dehumidifier. If you have a cool basement, that's the place to put it.

My house has both central AC and a separate dehumidifier. We turn the dehumidifier on when the internal RH gets over 50%. When it gets hot enough that the AC unit runs enough to keep the RH down, the dehumidifier gets turned off. On humid days where the AC unit only runs a little bit, both the AC and the dehumidifier will be running.

#### russ_watters

Mentor

That says basically that Hepa filters are just fine and no added benefit for Molekule
That review is great and I especially like his DIY fan-filter-unit.

Most of the claims there are carefully worded enough to not quite be lies, but they do give some false impressions. The one about HEPA filters not catching particles below 0.3 micron is the closest to a pure lie. 0.3 microns is the rating point and it is nearly the WORST performing size ("most penetrating particle"):

A couple more:
1. Normal air purifiers allow "pollutants" to multiply and be released back into the air.

Like the reviewer says, it's theoretically possible, but only if it's wet and with the fan on it isn't releasing anything back into the air. It's really a nothing claim.

2. "Many harmful pollutants such as VOCs are smaller than 0.3 microns. HEPA filters can't remove them."

So they smoosh together several claims to make the bulk claim true while giving the false impression about HEPAs and particle sizes. The true part is that yes, HEPAs can't trap VOCs. But you really shouldn't have high concentrations of VOCs in your house to begin with.

It's also worth noting that the allergy study they did doesn't compare their device against other air purifiers. The reason is probably because it doesn't perform better than other air purifiers.

### Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving