Summary:

Can a startup making tech for energy efficient refrigerators and window-mounted coolers get its products to market in China?

Phononic's heat pump compared to a traditional compressor.

Thermoelectric devices are semiconductors that can turn heat into electricity — they’re pretty cool because they can create products that can make use of wasted heat (like in the flue of a power plant), or use electricity to remove heat (like in a refrigerator). Startups, like North Carolina-based Phononic, have been trying to innovate with these materials and on Thursday Phononic announced a $21 million Series C round of funding from Beijing-based Tsing Capital, as well as from its existing Valley investors Venrock and Oak Investment Partners.

Phononic's heat pump at the company's facility

Phononic’s heat pump at the company’s facility

Phononic is using thermoelectric materials first for cooling applications and it has developed solid-state heat pumps that it is using in compressor-free refrigeration units, like super quiet fridges and home wine chillers. The company says its intends for its technology to be used in refrigeration consumer products that are “quiet, energy efficient, toxin-free and require no moving parts.” The funding is to move these products from the pilot scale into volume manufacturing.

The funding will also be used to establish a presence in Asia, and Phononic thinks China will be a massive market for more energy efficient refrigerators and window-mounted air conditioners. Chinese investors Tsing Capital can help the company move into China.

Phononic was one of our 2011 Green:net Big Ideas winners, and here’s my video interview with Phononic CEO Anthony Atti back then:

Phononic raised a Series B round of $10 million back in 2011, and also won a $3 million ARPA-E grant. Other companies innovating with thermoelectrics include Alphabet Energy, which earlier this year raised funding from natural gas giant Encana.

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