The Lemelson-MIT Program announced 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.
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 a year.
He developed the 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 Water-works is now deployed in villages by WaterHealth International Inc. It provides affordable, safe drinking water to more than 4 million people in India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, with plans for expansion to Bangladesh. Gadgil estimates that with 5 million people served, UV Waterworks would now annually avoid about 1,000 statistical deaths of children from diarrhea 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 stoves 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 annually 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, theTech 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.