Celebrating American Innovation: Ashok Gadgil

C4IP is highlighting the accomplishments of Ashok Gadgil from the University of California, Berkeley. His groundbreaking invention, utilizing ultraviolet light to purify water, was brought to market pursuant to the Bayh-Dole Act and has since saved millions of lives across the globe.

Ashok Gadgil was born in Mumbai, India, in 1950. He attended the University of Mumbai, where he graduated with a degree in physics, and went on to earn a graduate degree at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. Shortly after, Gadgil immigrated to the United States, where he quickly earned a Master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Gadgil’s extraordinary academic achievement was driven not only by his innate curiosity and intelligence, but also by his desire to make a difference in the world. Growing up in India, Gadgil witnessed firsthand the disadvantages that people in the developing world often faced, including a lack of electricity and clean water. These issues motivated Gadgil’s research, which he pursued tenaciously – working in the laboratory in his time off to avoid using up his meager government grants on his own salary.

In 1996, Gadgil achieved a breakthrough. Harnessing ultraviolet light from a fluorescent lamp, he devised a method to eliminate harmful microorganisms in water using minimal electricity. Thanks to the Bayh-Dole Act, Gadgil and the University of California secured a patent for his invention in 1998, subsequently licensing it to WaterHealth International. The company promptly initiated production of the device.

Today, Gadgil’s invention – known as “UV Waterworks” – has been installed over 300 times in more than a dozen developing countries. It is estimated to provide 2,000 people with safe drinking water each day. In conjunction with his other inventions, which include energy-efficient lighting and cooking appliances, Gadgil’s impactful work has helped more than 100 million people worldwide.

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