A lot of people have been buying those little red, yellow and black 5-Hour Energy drinks at gas stations and drugstores nationwide. So much so that they’ve made their creator, Manoj Bhargava, a billionaire—at least according to the new documentary “Billions in Change”—though he was also recently listed as a “dropoff” from Forbes Magazine’s 2014 Billionaires list.
No matter his exact wealth, Bhargava isn’t just sitting pretty on top it. Sparked into action perhaps by a swig of his own drinks, he has put his cash toward a greater cause. In fact, he’s signed “The Giving Pledge,” a campaign led by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates that encourages billionaires to give most of their net worth to philanthropic causes.
With that in mind, in 2011 Bhargava launched the Stage 2 Innovation Lab in Farmington Hills, Michigan (also where Living Essentials, the company behind 5-Hour Energy Drinks, is based), with former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda. The compound has been described by lab engineer Kevin Moran as “the most well-funded playhouse for engineers you can possibly have.”
The lab’s various teams are attempting to invent machines that can solve the world’s health, clean water, and energy problems.
1. An Auxiliary Heart
For example, the team is pursuing Renew, a medical device that mimics the functions of the human heart by squeezing blood from the legs into the body’s core, stimulating circulation.
2. Potable Drinking Water in an Hour
To address water shortages, the Rain project touts a device that can convert 1,000 gallons of any kind of water into potable drinking water, in an hour.
On a larger scale, water could be piped in from offshore barges and undergo the desalination process to address major drought-stricken areas. The machine is now being tested at a research facility in New Mexico.
3. Bike-Powered Energy
For millions of homes worldwide that operate on very little electricity or unreliable energy grids, the lab has produced a stationary bike to power an entire rural home with only one hour of pedaling.
As riders pedal, they’ll turn a small turbine generator that creates electricity, stored in a battery which can power lights and basic appliances.
Bhargava has said the bikes can be made for around $100 in India, fixed by any bicycle repairman, and will be tested in 15 or 20 small villages in northern India before a major rollout of 10,000 bikes early next year.
4. Harnessing the Earth’s Core Power
And as if the implications of just those three inventions wasn’t huge enough, Bhargava is also pursuing the “final answer” to solving 85 percent of the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.
He and the lab plan to harness the earth’s core energy by bringing it to the surface. Geothermal energy, while already widely used by many countries including Iceland and Indonesia, requires using steam, mixed with chemicals to bring energy to the surface. Bhargava’s cleaner method would use a graphene cord, stronger than steel and an excellent heat conductor, to pull heat to the surface.
Bhargava says maps show half of the world has plentiful underground heat, and since graphene cables could run horizontally, they could actually route chords to opposite sides of the planet.
In an interview Bhargava said, “You don’t need to burn anything… Once you bring [heat] up, you don’t change any of the infrastructure,” he says, explaining that utilities could simply distribute it instead of coal, oil, or natural gas.
Mind = blown.