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Khosla invests in turbine tech maker Pax

Khosla Ventures adds to its clean-tech investments with Pax Streamline, a maker of turbines, heating and air-conditioning systems, and aerospace technologies.

Updated 2:30 p.m. PST with funding amount.

Khosla Ventures, the venture capital firm of Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, has invested in Pax Streamline, maker of turbines, heating and air-conditioning systems, and aerospace technologies.

Khosla and Pax Streamline CEO Jay Harman did not disclose the amount of the investment, which was formally announced Friday, but Harman said the funding is "substantial." According to a source familiar with the deal, Khosla invested an estimated $6 million in a series A round of financing; and if the company meets certain business goals, the VC firm will put in another $6 million.

Khosla partner Ford Tamer will sit on the board of Pax Streamline, and Harman will serve as interim CEO.

Jay Harman

Pax Streamline is a relatively recent spinoff of Pax Scientific, an 11-year-old research and development company based in San Rafael, Calif. Pax Scientific was founded on the premise that design in nature could improve the efficiency of industrial design of everything from air conditioning fans to water pumps to and computer cooling systems. Harman's design for fans, pumps, and propellers mimic the geometries of spiraling whirlpools--and industry experts believe these designs can reduce friction, wasted energy, noise, and unwanted heat.

Pax's projects take a cue from a design theory called biomimicry, coined by Janine Benyus. Biomimicry argues that nature uses only the energy it needs, fits form to function, and recycles everything.

Pax Scientific, which has numerous private investors, has already spun out companies for computer systems (PaxIT), wastewater management systems (Pax Water Technologies), and car cooling systems (PaxAuto). Paul Hawken, co-founder of garden retailer Smith and Hawken, is CEO of three Pax spinoffs. The company formed Pax Streamline within the last two months to address new markets for turbines and aerospace technologies, according to Harman.

He said that Khosla's investment will open doors for the company.

"There's no one that doesn't answer Vinod Khosla's phone call," he said. "It's very helpful when you have new technology and are looking for attention from Fortune 100 companies. He is a real visionary."