MIT Prize Winner Uses Innovation To Save Lives

The $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Program Award was created to celebrate outstanding innovators, and this year’s prize goes to UC Berkeley Professor Ashok Gadgil. The chair of Safe Water and Sanitation at UC  Berkeley and director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was honored for his sustainable inventions designed to help those in the developing world to live healthier and safer lives.

Among his inventions is UV Waterworks, a technology shown to be both effective and inexpensive in using ultraviolet light to kill disease-causing pathogens. The impetus behind this vision was a tragedy in Gadgil’s home country of India in 1993, when more than 10,000 people died from Bengal Cholera contracted via infected drinking water. Gadgil developed his invention shortly thereafter, and it has since been disseminated by WaterHealth International (WHI) and put to work in producing safe, clean drinking water at a price of just 2 cents per 10 liters around the world, making clean water affordable even to those making under two dollars per day.

Dr. Ashok Gadgil

image via Lemelson-MIT Program

Together, Gadgil’s UV Waterworks technology and WHI have provided safe drinking water to approximately 5 million people across Ghana, India, Liberia, Nigeria and the Philippines, among many other countries, with plans in the works to bring the invention to Bangladesh soon.

Out of another global crisis, Gadgil developed another sustainable solution, this time for those displaced by genocide and warfare in Darfur: the Berkeley-Darfur Stove. Developed in partnership with nonprofit Potential Energy (formerly The Darfur Stoves Project), the technology was born out of a request by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for an invention that could reduce the fuel demands of those housed in Darfur displacement camps, 80 percent of which are female, who often forced to walk for up to seven hours, three to five times per week in search of firewood to heat water and food, making them vulnerable to assault each time they leave camp. Gadgil, his colleagues and students, and the women of Darfur designed the stove after several trips to the region.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.