The MassTLC Tech Top 50 celebrates tech companies and leaders across the region who have made a significant impact in the community during the past 12 month. This year, we are excited to recognize winners across 8 categories: Best Pivot to Meet the New World, Business Accomplishment, Company Culture, Inclusivity Impact, Leadership, New Company of the Year, Tech for Good: Social Responsibility, and Tech to Watch.
Forty-nine honorees were chosen across these categories, with the final recognition, the Mosaic Award, given to Chevalier “Chevy” Cleaves, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, for his work creating access and opportunity for future leaders. View the full list of winners, here.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more about each of the recipients to spotlight their accomplishments and their impact on customers, partners, employees, and the broader community.
Today, meet Phuc Labs, one of this year’s honorees for Tech to Watch.
Describe the new product, including when it was launched, why it was launched, its function, and its target customers.
Phuc Labs was started in June of 2020 when society was shut down by Covid protocol. Founder Phuc Vinh Truong wondered why we couldn’t vacuum Covid from the blood if we could see it. This led him to work on an idea that physicist James Maxwell predicted +150 years ago in a piece called Maxwell’s Demon, where you can sort particles in liquids based on having superior information. In effect, with our Vision valve system, that thought experiment is what we have proven.
Filtration remains analog in a digitized world. Over time, as filters get used up, they get clogged and use more energy, eventually failing and needing replacement. Our technology is filterless, so there is nothing to replace. Since there’s no filter, there’s no physical barrier that gets clogged over time and thus dramatically lowering operational expenditures and consumables.
Nor does the system degrade over time. In fact, our system improves over time with more data, constantly learning and becoming more efficient like a Tesla car. Because a filter is analog and just a physical barrier, there’s no feedback loop to allow for monitoring. It cannot offer fluid intelligence, knowing precisely what’s happening at a given time then changing on a dime if needed. For example, in the case of a storm surge, an application in wastewater treatment.
Unlike membranes, where you can only filter one type of particle, our platform can sort multiple different kinds of particles simultaneously. For new types of particles, we simply need to train our software and upgrade the system with the push of a button. This means less downtime and increased efficiency as the system gets upgraded.
Finally, membrane filtration requires constant water pressure and thus high energy loads. Conversely, our system doesn’t have a membrane and uses much less energy, again lowering Greenhouse emissions.
What is unique about this new product either in terms of the market it serves or the technology it utilizes?
Our technology, called the Vision Valve™, can sort what it “sees” using computer vision and AI. This is truly revolutionary technology as it unlocks value never before possible.
For example, we are helping one of our customers, a leading battery recycler, sort aluminum and copper metals from their process stream. Previously this was technically very difficult and economically unfeasible, but with computer vision, we can easily distinguish the two colors and increase value.
We’re discovering many new separation applications; however, customers with traditional filter applications are also interested in our technology to remove filter clogging components before they damage their existing filters. Thus, we can improve traditional system performance by extending membrane life and providing entirely new possibilities using our ability to sort specific targets.
What measurable success has this product achieved?
We were selected and are currently a part of the Urban X Accelerator Program; as a part of their cohort 10 that further justifies that others perceive what we are doing can be of enormous benefit to clean technology.
In addition, we are currently testing our technology at a municipal wastewater plant locally in Massachusetts and seeing very encouraging results (Total Suspended Solid separation rates) at all phases of treatment; primary effluent, post-biological stage, and secondary clarifier effluent at -80%, -60%, and -25% respectively. Worth noting is that so far, Vision Valve’s -80% separation rate of primary effluent exceeds industry standards of -50% to -70%.
We are also successfully testing the ability to sort Aluminum and Copper, which all battery recycling companies have not been able to tackle. Inside a Li-Ion battery contains 8% aluminum, 17% copper, 31% active cathode material (Lithium cobalt oxide, lithium nickel), and 44% (carbon, plastics, other). We are pushing the limits of what was thought was possible in extracting these rare earth metals for reuse. Based on our performance to date, we are entering into commercial relationships with leaders in their respective sectors.
What does it mean to be recognized with the other Tech Top 50 honorees?
Given that Massachusetts is one of the key global innovation hubs, Phuc Labs being recognized as a MassTLC Tech Top 50 company is a tremendous achievement. It validates that what we are doing is a novel and exciting technology that will continue to shift particle separation from an analog existence to a digital world. This technology could not have been possible a few years ago without computer vision, AI, and ML advancements, so we are excited to pioneer it in several industries. We hope to spur on this change in the Massachusetts area and around the globe.
Learn more about Tech Top 50 and meet all the winners, here.