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33. Phononic

Quietly cool

Founder: Tony Atti (CEO)
Launched: 2009
Funding: $160.9 million
Valuation: $284 million (PitchBook)
Disrupting: Heating and cooling
Rival: Embraco

CNBC Disruptors Phononic
George Kavallines

This Durham, North Carolina-based company is making refrigeration cool again. Phononic is a semiconductor manufacturer that has developed new solid-state cooling and refrigeration technology that displaces compressors, heat sinks and fans — ancient, energy-inefficient technology that's been around for decades. The company, launched in 2009, started by selling medical refrigerators used in labs and hospitals but recently expanded into fiber-optic devices, which heat up as light and data travel through them. Keeping the devices at lower temperatures increases performance and longevity.

Read More FULL LIST: 2017 DISRUPTOR 50

Phononic was started by Tony Atti, the former director of MHI Energy Partners, a boutique private-equity firm. His company's solid-state technology replaces the mechanical compressors and heat-exchange systems that power traditional refrigerators and make them hot energy guzzlers. Atti says that by removing these parts, Phononics units are nearly silent and use about 25 percent less energy.

In November the company signed a development agreement with a major softdrink company for a commercial beverage refrigerator that adds 30 percent more storage capacity for its product. By packing more cans and bottles of soda into one refrigerator, Phononics claims it helps save 25 percent on distribution costs by reducing the number of times it has to restock them.

So far, Phononic, with 110 employees, has raised more than $160 million from Oak Investment Partners, Venrock Associates, Tsing Capital, and GGV Capital, among others. Its latest round of $71 million in November is being used to expand its presence in the United States and China.

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