Semiconductors aren’t just for computers and LEDs anymore, at least, not if Phononic has its way. The startup, which just raised $44.5 million in funding, wants to put its solid-state thermoelectric technology into consumer products such as fridges and air conditioners — and to revolutionize heating and cooling. By replacing compressors with semiconductor technology, these machines will be much, much quieter.
Compare the MacBook Air’s solid state hard drive to a normal hard drive; the former lacks moving parts, meaning lower noise. The compressors in fridges and A/C units require fans, which are noisy. Mobile devices run cooler and often don’t use fans, so there’s no hum emitting from your smartphone. Additionally, the thermoelectrics won’t require the refrigerants fridges use now.
Right now, Phononic is preparing to ship its commercial refrigerators for laboratories, research centers, and medical facilities. The units’ “silent, vibration-free operation … eliminates sample degradation,” according to the company. No moving parts means the appliances are less likely to break, it says. The fridges are efficient and particulate free and can even connect via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to send alerts. There’s no compressor to take up space, either.
One future project for Phononic is a wine fridge with dual compartments for reds and whites. It’s not clear if the company is focusing on a smaller fridge right now because the technology isn’t yet efficient enough to work on a full-size model, however.
But Phononic would like to have a product in virtually every room of your home. The company foresees a time when its silent cooling compartments are incorporated into coffee tables and nightstands. Basically, you’ll never have to move to get an icy beverage again. Pretty cool.