Ashok Gadgil is a leading U.S. engineer working out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories focused on designing lowcost solutions to the developing world’s most intractable problems. The animus behind Gadgil’s work is to find resilient, sustainable solutions implementable at a massive scale. Gadgil eschews trendy gadgets and technology and focuses on the simple, lowtech solutions that can be deployed as widely as possible.
Gadgil’s lab works on a multitude of projects, but is perhaps best known for three:
The Darfur Stove: a highly efficient wood burning stove that is 4 times more efficient than traditional 3 stone stoves. This means that women in developing countries have to spend considerably less time gathering wood for cooking fires; it consequently reduces the risks of being attacked while far from the village. The Darfur Stove also considerably reduces emissions – especially once one considers that over a billion families worldwide still use biomass cooking stoves daily.
ECAR (ElectroChemical Arsenic Removal) is a technology to remove toxic levels of arsenic from groundwater in South Asia, and elsewhere. It is based on using small amounts of electricity for controlled release of a particular kind of iron rust in water that has toxic levels of arsenic. Owing to the natural chemistry that subsequently occurs in the water, the rust binds irreversibly with the arsenic and can be removed by settling, leaving the water safe to drink. The process is undertaken at room temperature and under atmospheric pressure and is highly effective even at high levels of arsenic in groundwater.
UV Waterworks was originally conceived in response to a cholera epidemic, and uses UV light from a low pressure mercury discharge (similar to that in a fluorescent lamp) to disinfect drinking water. The system has no moving parts and only requires 40 watts of power to power the bulb. For that, the system can disinfect approximately 4 gallons per minute, or, one person’s entire water needs for an entire year at a cost of a couple of cents.
The three projects highly emphasize the nature of Ashok’s work. Through thoughtful design (and smart chemistry), the solutions from Ashok’s lab provide benefits to millions with elegant, affordable solutions.
We talked to Ashok at length in a fascinating segment on Social Design Insights on August 17, 2017. Listen here for more information.