Global human development faces a fundamental dilemma: many countries seem permanently caught in poverty, while those that are not continue to build their economies along a path that is ecologically unsustainable. This dichotomy raises a critical question: can developing countries climb out of poverty while also preserving their ecological health?
To that end, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has launched the LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (LIGTT, pronounced "light"). Its ambitious mandate is to foster the discovery, development, and deployment of a generation of low-carbon, affordable technologies that will advance sustainable methods to fight global poverty.
LIGTT's geographic focus will be on South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where more than one billion people are living on less than $1.25 per day. LIGTT will work with carefully selected partners to ensure effective on-the-ground implementation.
Common problems in dire need of technology solutions include water desalination, low-cost and low-energy refrigeration, minimal electricity access, and community-level sanitization. LIGTT aims to take advantage of a new technological paradigm, in which solutions are distributed and thus not reliant on institutional infrastructure. Good examples include off-grid telecommunications and decentralized health and sanitation devices.
As it works towards building a low-carbon pathway to prosperity, LIGTT also hopes to foster a new generation of researchers at Berkeley Lab, and in partner institutions from developing countries, trained with both world-class science and cultural intelligence.
"The new LIGTT Institute will bring together individuals with outstanding minds and compassionate hearts to build upon Berkeley Lab's growing record of achievement in developing environmentally and economically scalable solutions that elevate the human condition."
--Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos
Berkeley Lab scientist Ashok Gadgil was the driving force behind the Darfur Stove and UV Waterworks, and is the creative force behind the launch of LIGTT. Gadgil, who serves as director of the Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division as well as UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering, was recently honored with the Zayed Future Energy Prize's Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been recipient of the Heinz Award, and the Darfur Stove won the Popular Mechanics "Breakthrough" award in 2007. To read a Q&A with Gadgil about the future of LIGTT, go here.
LIGTT builds upon a strong record of achievements by Berkeley Lab researchers in their efforts to bring science solutions to the world. Two inventions have already helped millions improve their lives.
A device to disinfect drinking water inexpensively using ultraviolet light, has been licensed to WaterHealth International (WHI). Water-borne diseases, such as dysentery, are the largest environmental cause of child and infant mortality in the developing world, killing about 2 million children annually. Today WHI sells clean drinking water to five million people in six countries in Asia and Africa at about two cents per gallon and has just opened its 500th water purification center in rural India.
This fuel-efficient cookstove was designed specifically for women living in Darfuri camps. Since Berkeley Lab partnered with Darfur Stoves Project and Oxfam America, 21,000 stoves now serve more than 120,000 people in Darfur. In the last five years, the stoves have saved each household more than $300 per year in fuel costs, and reduced women's exposure to possible violence associated with traveling far outside the camp to gather firewood.
For more about Berkeley Lab's contributions in developing countries, go here.