Applied Particle Technology wins $50,000 Arch Grant

One purifies the air you breathe; the other promises to find you the perfect, albeit virtual, girlfriend. Two vastly different but innovative business startups with direct ties to Washington University, have, with the help of Arch Grants, $50,000 in extra capital funding.

Arch Grants, which provides equity-free cash awards and free support services to startups willing to headquarter their businesses in St. Louis, announced its 2015 cohort June 18. Among the 11 award-winners were Applied Particle Technology and Invisible Girlfriend.

Applied Particle Technology (APT) provides air treatment systems in environments that require high efficiency removal of tiny particles. The innovative system, which operates without a media filter, can also inactivate pathogens and remove toxic fumes or odors. APT's technology could be used on commercial airplanes, in hospital clean rooms and in other areas where the highest standards of air quality must be maintained.

Pratim Biswas, the Lucy and Stanley Lopata Professor and chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, along with doctoral students Jiaxi Fang and Tandeep Chadha, founded APT in 2014. Their adviser, Emre Toker, is managing director of the Washington University Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

"Our new filtration technology is able to overcome a lot of the limitations with existing electronic filtration and media-based filtration," Fang said. "Most filters are designed for a single type of pollutant, but in reality, the air also has particles, gases and bacteria. It's tough to filter each of them out because you have to add multiple filtration technologies, and it costs a lot to operate, implement and maintain them."

(From left) Jiaxi Fang; Tandeep Chadha; Pratim Biswas, PhD, have won a $50,000 Arch Grant for their company, Applied Particle Technology.

APT took second place in last year's Olin Cup competition, winning a $50,000 opportunity investment for the company. APT also was a finalist in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Clean Energy Competition this year, and was awarded a small cash prize and mentoring help for their startup.

Chadha and Fang said they'll keep entering similar competitions to shore up APT's bottom line, and plan to work on the venture full-time after earning their degrees.

Invisible Girlfriend was founded by WashU alumni Matthew Homann, (JD '93) and Kyle Tabor (MBA '13). When Homann first pitched the idea at St. Louis' Startup Weekend in 2013, it won, and the concept immediately went viral: late-night host Conan O'Brien even parodied the idea with a sketch on his show this past January.

Invisible Girlfriend employees communicate with customers via text message to help them avoid the "social stigma of being single." The company also says the service helps people navigate the ever-changing dating scene by providing a safe place to communicate with a real person via text.