Berkeley Lab’s Ashok Gadgil Wins 2012 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation

Ashok Gadgil, Environmental Energy Technologies Division Director
May 2012

The Lemelson-MIT Program today announced Dr. Ashok Gadgil as the recipient of the 2012 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation in recognition of his steady pursuit to blend research, invention, and humanitarianism for broad social impact. Gadgil is the Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

“I am honored and thrilled that the Lemelson-MIT Program has chosen to recognize innovations to help improve lives of poor people in the developing world,” said Gadgil. “We can make a positive difference to the lives of large numbers of people by addressing big problems with low-cost but high-impact innovative solutions.”

Gadgil’s inventions and innovations are improving the livelihood of more than 100 million people in more than 41 countries on four continents, with estimated annual societal economic benefits exceeding $5 billion/year.

He developed UV Waterworks, a technology for developing countries that uses ultraviolet light to inexpensively disinfect drinking water. UV Waterworks earned Gadgil the Discover Award in 1996 for the most significant environmental invention of the year, as well as the Popular Science award for "Best of What is New–1996." UV Waterworks is now deployed in villages by WaterHealth International Inc.  It provides affordable, safe drinking water to more than four million people in India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, with plans for expansion to Bangladesh. Gadgil estimates that with five million people served, UV Waterworks would now annually avoid about 1,000 statistical deaths of children from diarrheal diseases in the serviced population.

Current projects by his research team include developing low-cost ways of removing high levels of naturally occurring arsenic from groundwater used for drinking, a serious problem in rural Bangladesh, neighboring parts of India, and some other parts of the world.

His research team developed a fuel-efficient stove for Darfur to help reduce the firewood demand of Darfur displaced persons, most of whom are women at risk of violence as they forage for firewood outside of camp boundaries. To date, more than 20,000 Berkeley-Darfur Stoves have been distributed, helping 125,000 displaced women and their dependents. A survey in 2010 in North Darfur found that the $20 stove saves $330 in fuel costs annually for each recipient household. Thus, over their five-year estimated life, the 20,000 stoves will save $33 million for the recipient households. Gadgil is currently working on an iteration of the stove for dissemination in Ethiopia.

The utility-sponsored compact fluorescent lamp leasing programs that he pioneered are being successfully implemented in 38 countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Gadgil has received several other awards and honors for his work, including the Pew Fellowship in Conservation and the Environment in 1991 for his work on accelerating energy efficiency in developing countries, the World Technology Award for Energy in 2002, the Tech Laureate Award in 2004, the Heinz Award in 2009, the European Inventor Award in 2011, and the Zayed Future Energy Prize for sustainable energy in early 2012.

He serves on several international and national advisory committees dealing with energy efficiency, invention and innovation, and issues of development and the environment. During the 2004-2005 academic year Dr. Gadgil was the MAP/Ming Visiting Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University.

The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding innovators and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

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