Centrifugal pumps consume massive amounts of energy and generate cavitation (tiny bubbles) as they work, causing vibration that makes them noisy and inefficient. The nature-spiraled volute pump doesn't cavitate, and thus uses 20% to 40% less juice. It's also gentler than its old-school counterparts: "The delta smelt [in the Sacramento River] has been munched up by pumps," says Pax Scientific CEO Jay Harman. "With the volute pump, fish go through." Pax recently got funding from VC Vinod Khosla and is bringing its ultra-efficient spiral to aerospace and medicine, heat exchange and air-conditioning, wind turbines and marine propulsion.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.