I met Mario in New York (2000). This successful entrepreneur, poet, and activist impressed me by his propensity for innovation. Mario was born in Labin (Istria, Croatia). When he was 20 he escaped from then communist Yugoslavia to a refugee camp in Italy. A year later he immigrated to the United States in search of democracy, a safer and better life. Today, Mario, as a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the Republic of Croatia, lives with his family between New York and the island of Krk in Croatia, where Mario and his wife Adriana have invested in tourism, where they have an apartment complex in Punat.
He holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master in mechanical engineering and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering; he worked in the pharmaceutical industry and was Section Head for the Mechanical Engineering Department in Merck & Co., and assistant chief engineer at Rockefeller Center Inc. In 1988 he opened Apex Engineering, Inc., a consulting and design company.
Mario’s activism in promoting Croatian issues is also an important part of his life. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of the Order of Croatian Weaver from Croatian President dr. Franjo Tuđman. He served as Croatian World Congress Ambassador to the United Nations. He is also a co-founder of the international poetry group “Croatian Emigrants Lyrics”, and received the “International Cultures Award” and the “Vision in America Award”. He was an editor of Besida, a magazine in Toronto, and published four books of poetry in standard Croatian language and in Labinska Cakavica, all using the name Mario Višković.
Mario holds several U. S. Patents: Supply and Exhaust Air Sterilization Unit in Air Conditioning and Ventilating Systems; Conflated Air Conditioning System; Refrigerant Side Economizer.
When I met Mr. Mario in New York, I had the opportunity to collaborate with him on renewable electricity projects. Mario spends this challenging period of COVID-19, on the island of Krk in his private hotel.
Tell me how are you living through this time of Coronavirus?
These times are scary and something that I did not expect to happen in my lifetime. While growing up I heard many stories about the 1918 Spanish Flu. Three of my mother’s sisters, ages 23, 18, and 15 died that year, two of them on the same day! My mom and dad used to talk often about the Spanish Flu because tragedy struck almost every person in our society. For me, these were just interesting stories and I never imagined that my family and I would be living in a similar situation. Now it is me who knows people that are infected with COVID-19, some of them, whose family members are dying from this horrible disease.
This virus outbreak on such a scale is an unprecedented situation in the 20th and 21st centuries, and most societies do not have previous experience dealing with something like this on such a wide scale. We know much about viruses, but not enough how to deal with all of them. My daughter from New York called me and asked me why I don’t do something with my patent that I filed for many years ago that deals with how to eradicate microbes from an environment. She asked me why we don’t design and build a dome where we can all live safely, free from viruses.
Now that I am retired and not working in the field anymore, I have not been as connected with up-to-the-minute technical matters, but after that phone call, I started to think about my 40 years of technical experience, much of which was associated with viruses. I designed bio-safety laboratories BSL 4, dealing with Anthrax, various viruses, toxic wastes, and other killer microbes just like this Coronavirus which causes COVID-19. I designed and filed for a patent for a Sterilizing Unit. Of course, I was not thinking of sterilizing environments on the scale of the contamination we have with this Coronavirus. My invention is designed to provide microbial free air to indoor environments, or in case of exhaust air from interior spaces to outdoor environments. The system was designed to kill microorganisms infected with viruses. I believe this same concept and technology can be used on a larger scale now to deal with coronaviruses. I found a use for this invention in the pharmaceutical industry far back in 1985.
The Sterilization Unit Patent is something you filed for many years ago. What kind of invention is this and where can it be used? Is this something that today’s society in this hard time of Coronavirus can use?
Back in 1985, I worked with a major Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company in the USA. We had a problem with contamination of a pharmaceutical product during the production stages, due to contaminated outside air, and before the product was brought to its completion, therefore we had to throw away millions of dollars worth of product. In 2005 I filed for the patent. The virus I worked with was not Coronavirus but a virus similar in nature to it. The primary object of this invention is to provide microbial-free air (sterile air) to an indoor environment, or in the case of exhaust air to an outdoor environment, wherever that environment can be threatened by microbiological contamination. The use of this invention can mostly be used (but not only) to supply or exhaust the air to or from: microbiological, biomedical or inoculum laboratories and other pharmaceutical facilities and processes dealing with organisms sensitive to microbiological contamination, or in any enclosed spaces housing living organisms.
With this invention, air can be treated for microbiological contamination by modifying conventional ventilation and air conditioning unit to heat the air to elevated temperatures and retain it at that temperature for a certain period. Microbiological contamination can cause severe illnesses and infections in humans and animals. Contamination by viable submicroscopic organisms can be eliminated or greatly reduced by using this invention. Since the United States had in recent years several waves of panic over Anthrax, and even more currently over Coronavirus spread epidemics, this is a timely invention that can benefit everyone.
The purpose of this invention is to heat the air to high temperatures and retain it at that temperature for a certain period, as required by the specific situation, depending on the microorganisms we are trying to reduce or eliminate.
Are there any other inventions that you have patents on or that you are working on? Can you tell us something about this?
I would like to present to you the following inventions. This listing includes patent applications that are pending as well as patents that have already been granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Refrigerant side economizer
This invention provides a refrigerant side economizer cycle and a fuel-heat based heating cycle for air conditioners, heat pumps, and chillers. The built-in refrigerant side economizer cycle can be substituted for an air-side economizer cycle or a water-side economizer cycle. It can provide an economizer cycle for split system air conditioners, chillers, coolers, and heat pumps. Also, it makes possible an economizer mode for variable refrigerant flow units. With this invention, the units can distribute heating from a fuel-heat source without compressor operation. During refrigerant side economizer mode, the refrigerant pump in the units maintains circulation without compressor operation, with a fraction of energy consumption. To allow for longer distance between split-system units, the refrigerant pump if needed can operate during compressor operation.
Conflated air conditioning system
The primary object of the present invention is to provide a basis for the design and implementation of a heating and cooling system (air conditioning system) which will reduce energy consumption over the presently used systems, reduce equipment and installation cost, and reduce maintenance cost. The use of this invention can mostly be used (but not only) in any commercial or residential building requiring heating and cooling. This system allows heating and cooling with water-cooled, self-contained air conditioning units or heat pumps, served by 2-pipe or single pipe, viable without heat pump operation, and can utilize waterside economizer. The system eliminates the need of having separate condenser water and separate hot water piping connections to the self-contained terminal air conditioning units.
Are you working on any new invention at the moment?
Just recently I did some experiments and investigation in a laboratory in Vermont on drying hemp. The hemp industry is growing worldwide. Hemp is at the moment one of the most sought commodities on the market. Its value is evident by its many uses for food, fuel, shelter, clothing, jobs, health: hemp IS our future!
New technology and new ideas on how to speed up the drying process is needed. Natural drying requires large amounts of space to handle larger quantities of crops and the drying process is way too long. Conventional mechanical drying using a cooling system is way too expensive due to the amount of energy needed to dry it. I found a way how to dry hemp very quickly, in a matter of hours, and with a fractional amount of energy spent to dry compare to conventional mechanical systems. Further, the system is expandable and it is mobile so it can be moved from farm to farm very easily and quickly. The same technology can probably be used to dry the meet, but further laboratory testing is needed.
Besides being a husband, father, grandfather, engineer, professor, sportsman, and successful businessman, you are also a well- known poet among Croats in Croatia and abroad. You are truly a renaissance man. How do you balance your daily life activities?
None of my daily life activities exclude each other. I live my life at the moment. I am blessed to be able to do as I like, do what I like to do, and most importantly enjoy each of the things I do. I pray that all my endeavors are a positive force, and I hope that in some ways each will be helping humanity. If I can look back and say that I have achieved that, what can I be but a happy person? I am fortunate enough to be happy in my life.
You were also a Chairman of BPI. Tell us something about this position?
My interest was in supporting the BPI and supporting its mission for a higher standard amongst contracting companies. It is through the dedication of volunteers, that we are able to ensure the ongoing development of accreditation and continual updates to existing accreditation. Our focus is not only in including the expansion and the updating of existing accreditations but the possibility of opening new doors for other partners in the World of Building Science, partners that we may not realize exist at this time.
You received acknowledgments from some presidents. What was this all about?
I had the pleasure to meet the 41st president of the USA, George H.W. Bush, in the early 1990s in Washington DC, at a dinner given by the White House to selected American businesses people.
In 2001, as the United Nations Ambassador of the Croatian World Congress, I wrote a letter on behalf of the Croatian World Congress to President George W. Bush, to show our support for the American people after the 9/11/2001 attack on the Twin Towers. He wrote me back a nice thank you letter which I treasure and have framed on my office wall at home.
In 1999, I was honored to be awarded the Presidential Medal of the Order of Croatian Weaver (Red Hrvatskog Pletera), from then Croatian President dr. Franjo Tudjman.
In 2000 I met Croatian President Mesic in Zagreb. That same year he came to the United Nations for the Millennium Summit.
In 2007 I was doing design work renovating thirteen floors of the Trump Hotel on Central Park West in New York City. All of our meetings were held in Trump Tower, in the famous board room a few blocks away on Fifth Avenue.
In 2015 in Zagreb, it was my pleasure to also meet with President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic.
Could you please at the end of this interview share your message to the world
My message to the world is that we, as a society, have to re-focus ourselves and re-define our priorities. If we can come to the realization of who we truly are, and that our place on this planet is not as the ultimate decision-makers, then perhaps we can learn to appreciate Nature and be a part of it instead of being the ones who are destroying it. We need to return to spiritual values, and as we teach logic and innovation, we also need to study and appreciate the Laws of Nature.