CNBC Disruptor 50

Keeping cool: Phononic has a new take on refrigeration and a new partnership with Unilever

Key Points
  • CNBC Disruptor company Phononic is reinventing the refrigerator, among other things.
  • It's already starting to pull in some big partnerships.
This disruptor company is transforming the future of the fridge

Semiconductor company Phononic is reinventing the refrigerator, among other things.

And it's already starting to pull in some big partnerships.

The Durham, North Carolina-based company, ranked No. 17 on the 2019 Disruptor 50 list, has developed new technology that CEO Tony Atti says provides "innovative cooling solutions not currently being met by compressor-based incumbents."

In other words, it cools in different ways and eliminates the need for toxic refrigerants or bulky appliances, he told CNBC. The idea is that the chip drives the heat around the entire area of the shell, so there is never any one hot point of the product, which would preclude it from being used in a compact space.

"The reference design built around the chip, coupled with the chip that brings it to life, gives us tremendous flexibility as to where you apply our cooling, flexibility you can't get with a compressor system because of its toxicity, its weight or its electrical requirements that relegate it to certain areas of its use," Atti said on "Power Lunch."

Tony Atti, CEO, Phononic
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Its latest partnership is with consumer goods company Unilever, which has Phononic providing point-of-sale countertop freezers for ice cream products.

"When they placed a compressor, the waste, heat and the electrical requirements drove that compressor to the back of the store," said Atti. "Now you have ice cream and some of the most famous brands right at the point of sale," which he called the "most demanding and high-profile, high-profit area of a grocery store."

Phononic, which launched in 2009, started by selling medical refrigerators used in labs and hospitals. Its business got a boost last year when it partnered with Thermo Fisher Scientific to be the exclusive supplier for its life sciences and health-care solid-state refrigeration and freezer products.