Ashok Gadgil, Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, answers some questions about the LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies.
The LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies is a new institute to develop and deploy new technology to fight poverty around the globe using sustainable methods. LIGTT is pronounced “light.” It will engage Berkeley Lab scientists as well as partner organizations around the world to develop technologies that can provide robust, affordable innovative technology solutions that bring people out of poverty, provide employment, and bring communities economic development.
For me, it’s an extension of the work I’ve been doing for many years, beginning with UV Waterworks in the early 1990s. That was motivated by the 1993 cholera epidemic in India and nearby countries. It could have been prevented through very inexpensive water purification methods, but they just weren’t available in those areas at that time.
By leveraging some of the research we already do here at Berkeley Lab, we can develop technologies that improve human health and provide for basic human needs without multi-billion dollar investments of capital, or large bureaucracies. There are proven effective ways to get technologies in the hands of those who need them through partnerships with communities and international organizations, and careful adaptation of technology to local needs. We have been working for many years on technologies that purify drinking water, and energy-efficient stoves, among others.
To Berkeley Lab, LIGTT is important as a way of furthering the mission of Carbon Cycle 2.0—developing and deploying low-carbon technologies that can help mitigate climate change, while providing a path for the world’s poorest inhabitants toward development, employment, and better lives.
The poorest two billion people of the world face shortages of safe drinking water, access to electricity, and good quality shelter that is affordable. We need game-changing innovative technologies to meet these needs affordably and with low carbon impact.
Inexpensive, energy-efficient stoves can reduce the amount of wood that families need to cook their meals. These stoves save them money by reducing the amount of fuel they need to buy, or if they gather wood, efficient stoves reduce hardship in fuel-collection effort, and environmental damage, by lowering the amount of wood they need to gather.
We’ve already had years of experience in these areas, with manufacturing and distribution of our technologies through a start-up company and local partner organizations.
We have also been developing affordable and robust technologies to remove arsenic from drinking water, which is a major problem in Bangladesh, parts of India, and other areas of the world where arsenic occurs naturally in groundwater.
We also expect to work on a variety of other technologies to address the need for low-cost shelter, and inexpensive energy-efficient lighting and refrigeration, and other services that more developed areas of the world take for granted.
Funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development to extend our work on energy-efficient cookstoves is pending.
As you may know, my research team developed the energy-efficient Berkeley-Darfur Stove. We helped create an independent non-profit, now our partner, The Darfur Stoves Project, to distribute and set up manufacturing of the Berkeley-Darfur stove in Darfur.
If granted, the USAID funding would help ramp up local manufacturing. This will provide more jobs, and expand the local economy, in addition to reducing the exposure of women to violence when they gather fuel wood outside of Darfur camp boundaries. [See the Darfur Stoves Project website]
Ken Chow of Berkeley Lab’s Engineering Division will lead this particular effort. This expands the partnership between Engineering and my Division, Environmental Energy Technologies.
The funding would also further develop and deploy an efficient stove for Ethiopia. It would pay for technology assessment studies there to determine what features a stove must have to be successful in Ethiopian environmental and economic conditions.
The Obama Administration and OSTP would like to leverage the exceptional strength of the United States in science and technology to bring forth game-changing innovations for international development.
Five years from now, I expect we’ll see an Institute that is funded by a variety of institutions, such as U.S. and international agencies, foundations, and private sector partners, with many non-governmental organizations as our partners on the ground all over the world. LIGTT will have, we hope, a deep portfolio of projects in such areas as water, agriculture, energy, sustainable housing, and technology for basic energy services such as lighting and refrigeration. Our NGO partners will be working in communities around the globe to help spread the use of technologies that will make the world healthier, happier, and more sustainable.