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“This Heinz Award brings attention to the often desperate needs of the poorest half of humanity whom technological research and innovation commonly leave in the dust.” – Ashok Gadgil

Berkeley, CA-Ashok Gadgil, a scientist in the U.S. Department of Energy’s  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), is one of 10 recipients being recognized for their environmental achievements through the 15th annual Heinz Awards, announced today  by the Heinz Family Foundation.

Gadgil is the deputy director of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division,  as well as UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty senior scientist at Berkeley Lab.  He will receive $100,000 for the strides he has made toward a more sustainable, cleaner environment.

Heinz Award winning scientist Ashok Gadgil with the Darfur stove, a simple cookstove made of sheet metal or cast iron, designed to use less wood or alternative fuels such as animal dung.

Heinz Award winning scientist Ashok Gadgil with the Darfur stove, a simple cookstove made of sheet metal or cast iron, designed to use less wood or alternative fuels such as animal dung.

“It is humbling for me to see what august company I am in, when I see the names of past Heinz Award winners,” said Gadgil. “I also feel tremendously honored and pleased.  This award brings attention to the often desperate needs of the poorest half of humanity whom technological research and innovation commonly leave in the dust.”

The Heinz Awards were created in memory of U.S. Senator John Heinz, and have traditionally been given to individuals in the categories of arts and humanities; environment; human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy and employment. This year, the awards focused on the environment to commemorate the late senator’s long-standing commitment to sustainability.

“These awards honor those guardians of our future who value our natural resources, work to remove toxic chemicals from our air and water, and create policies and the new technology that will ensure a sustainable planet for generations to come,” said Teresa Heinz, widow of Sen. Heinz and chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, in a statement. “In highlighting the work of some of our country’s most thoughtful, innovative and creative individuals, we are pleased to shine a deserving spotlight on their extraordinary achievements.”

Gadgil, 58, was recognized for his work as a researcher, inventor and humanitarian. The foundation cited Gadgil’s efforts to understand airflow and pollutant transport in buildings, which helps to reduce health risks, and efforts to improve energy efficiency and enhance the quality of life in developing countries. His knack for creating simple inventions to solve fundamental problems in developing countries was also highlighted.

Disinfecting Water in Developing Nations

In the 1990s, Gadgil led a team which developed an inexpensive and reliable water purification system using ultraviolet light called UV Waterworks. He undertook the work originally in response to a cholera epidemic that struck India. However, the need for an inexpensive, robust, and energy-efficient way to disinfect drinking water in developing nations is urgent throughout-the World Health Organization estimates that two million people, mostly children, die every year from preventable waterborne diseases. UV Waterworks was commercialized by WaterHealth International, a company Gadgil advises, and the technology is now an increasing presence in the developing world. UV Waterworks won a Discover magazine award and a Best of What’s New award from Popular Science magazine.

Most recently, Gadgil is working on ways to inexpensively remove arsenic from drinking water in Bangladesh using simple, inexpensive and locally available materials such as ash from the burning of coal. Arsenic in drinking water occurs naturally  in high concentrations in certain areas of the world, including Bangladesh, and is causing a slow mass poisoning of a of as many as 10 percent of that nation’s population.

The Berkeley Darfur Stove

In 2005, as the strife in the Darfur region was capturing worldwide attention, Gadgil was asked by the U.S. Agency for International Development to help find a solution to reduce the exposure of women living in the Darfur refugee camps, who were being attacked and raped as they foraged outside the camps for fuelwood to cook with. Gadgil led the effort to develop a more fuel-efficient cook stove that significantly reduced the amount of firewood that refugees in the war-torn area needed to collect.

The Berkeley Darfur Stove is four times more efficient than traditional 3-stone fires used in the region, and two times more efficient than clay stoves. Women spend less time outside of the camps collecting fuel wood, reducing the risk of exposure to rape. The fully enclosed flames of the stove reduce the danger of the dense straw and stick shelters from burning down, and reduction of smoke production compared to other stoves, reducing smoke inhalation and lung disease. A non-governmental organization is now working to set up local manufacture and distribution of the stove. The stove won the Popular Mechanics “Breakthrough” award in 2007.

Other Achievements

As a researcher conducting experimental and modeling research in Indoor Airflow & Pollutant Transport, he has contributed to numerous studies to help reduce the health risks and improve occupant comfort of building occupants. This work has included finding ways to minimize the risks to occupants from toxic releases of chemical and biological agents within buildings.

He has also pioneered utility-sponsored compact fluorescent lamp leasing programs that are being successfully implemented by utilities in several east-European and developing countries.

Gadgil teaches a class at UC Berkeley called “Design for Sustainable Communities,” which helps students imagine and design technological solutions to environmental problems.

Each recipient of the Heinz Award will receive a $100,000 unrestricted award along with a medallion on Oct. 28 at a private ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California.  It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at

Additional Information

More about Ashok Gadgil:

More about Teresa Heinz, the Heinz Family Foundation and each of the recipients is available online

A sampling of articles and websites about Ashok Gadgil’s work

A meeting with a Berkeley Lab scientist inspires a young inventor

A mission to Darfur

The Berkeley Darfur Stove:

Water filter could help millions of Bangladeshis

Berkeley Lab scientist honored with World Technology Network award

Berkeley Lab Researchers Develop Concise Website on Handling Chemical-Biological Attacks Against Buildings

UV Waterworks

New Water Purification Device Aids in Caribbean Relief Effort

New Device Cleans Water With Light, Could Save Lives In Third World