Researchers in Bethesda, Maryland, have spent eight years developing a handheld device to quickly assess potential brain trauma in injured U.S. soldiers and athletes with concussions.

Jean Case and her husband Steve, who co-founded AOL Inc., invested in BrainScope Co., the device’s developer, through their family office in 2008. The billionaire couple say they are using some of their fortune to help ease some of society’s ills while hopefully making a profit. They committed in June to spend $50 million in the coming years on mission-driven investments.

“A new generation of investors is emerging that wants more than just a financial return,” Jean Case, 54, said in an interview. “Billions more will go into it.”

With private wealth at a record, rich investors such as the Cases, members of the Pritzker family and Pierre Omidyar are increasingly looking for ways to put their money to work and do good. It’s an investing niche previously limited to a sprinkling of mutual funds that avoided stocks such as tobacco and gun manufacturers. The number of money managers offering impact-investing products has surged 155 percent in the past five years.

Impact investing is still a fraction of the record $152 trillion that the world’s richest had at their disposal last year, according to the Boston Consulting Group. It represents less than 1 percent of that pool, or an estimated $46 billion, according to a May report by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

$1 Trillion

The impact-investing market may reach $1 trillion by 2020, according to a 2010 report by JPMorgan and the Rockefeller Foundation. The investments are a needed addition in tackling social and environmental challenges in tight fiscal times, said Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and co- author of “The Power of Impact Investing” (Wharton Digital Press, 145 pages, $11.47).

“There’s not enough capital in the world to solve the big problems with just philanthropy,” she said.

Fund managers raised $2.8 billion for impact investments in 2013, and the target this year is $4.5 billion, according to a JPMorgan survey published in May of 125 such investors. Pension funds and insurance companies were the largest source of capital followed by family offices and wealthy individuals, according to the study.