Humans have sought new caffeine fixes for hundreds of years. But the AeroShot inhaler might be the strangest yet: Compress the tube, and it burps a puff of lime-flavored caffeine powder that instantaneously dissolves on your tongue. "We think the future of energy is breathable," says Tom Hadfield, the startup's CEO.
There's rationale—and $8.5 million in venture financing—behind his boast. Caffeine delivery has quickened (and become more portable) with our lives. After coffee, Red Bull, and 5-Hour Energy, AeroShot seemed inevitable. But its inventor, Harvard professor David Edwards (who has made breathable medicine and chocolate), says the real market opportunity isn't just portability. It's transparency.
Food innovations often come with unknown edibles—just what is in that energy drink, and how much is too much? Breathable caffeine may sound scary, but it is, in fact, simpler: just caffeine with flavoring, easy to mete out precise servings.
What else benefits from precision? Plenty, say Edwards and Hadfield. Their next target: breathable vitamins.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.