Microscopes are a vital medical tool for diagnosis of disease and analysis of blood samples, but many areas in developing countries lack access to clinical-quality microscopes and qualified medical professionals to evaluate microscopy data.
By attaching low-cost, portable microscopes to mobile phones or netbook computers, the CellScope project helps bring better medical care to regions of the world without local medical centers. Images from slides can be captured in rural areas, and then electronically transmitted to experts in a distant city for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. This can reduce the time and cost of critical medical care.
The CellScope system has been successfully used to image malaria and tuberculosis, with an image quality comparable to standard diagnostic microscopy. The research team is currently working on launching a pilot project that integrates the CellScope with an existing rural telemedicine network in India.
Each year, more than half a million women die from complications of childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, where sporadic electricity impairs the operation of essential hospital equipment and hospital communications. Without reliable electricity, nurses cannot quickly notify on-call physicians of emergencies, and midwives and physicians are forced to make treatment decisions without the benefit of necessary diagnostic tests. Obstetric procedures and emergency surgeries are conducted under grossly suboptimal conditions, and can have tragic consequences.
WE CARE Solar helps reduce maternal mortality by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using solar electricity. The portable “solar suitcase” designed by WE CARE Solar powers two overhead LED lights, charges walkie-talkies and cell phones, and includes LED headlamps with rechargeable batteries. With a user-friendly, durable, nearly maintenance-free design, the systems can easily be installed in hospitals and clinics with unreliable or problematic power systems. The first systems were deployed in June 2009, and have now been introduced in 14 countries.
Today, 30-80 million Bangladeshis are slowly being poisoned as they drink water from arsenic-contaminated wells. This primarily rural population is too poor to afford arsenic remediation techniques that are cost effective only on large scales. Low cost methods require frequent maintenance and diligent operation by each end user, leading to high abandonment rates, ineffective arsenic removal and low acceptability by the public.
Electrochemical Arsenic Remediation (ECAR) is a technique that can be used affordably, reliably, and on a small-community scale with little preexisting infrastructure, allowing for potential rapid dissemination into Bangladesh. With support from the SPS program, the project team will develop a pilot community scale water center using ECAR to demonstrate clean water at an affordable price (~ US 2.5¢ per person per day) to a Bangladeshi village with full cost recovery. Success will provide a financially and environmentally sustainable model for a small community micro-utility that is ready for operation and eventual replication and scale-up.
Read more on the Arsenic-Free Bangladesh website.
To help alleviate the poverty, lack of natural resources, physical hardship, and lack of physical security for the internally displaced persons (IDP) in Darfur, the Darfur Stoves Project has designed a high performance, fuel-efficient stove. This stove is customized for the cooking methods, pot shapes, windy conditions and sandy terrain in Darfur. An early model was successfully demonstrated in Darfur in 2006 and approximately 5,000 were being used by the IDP population by mid-2009. The SPS Program has helped to fund the set-up of a complete supply chain to produce and disseminate the stoves. This more efficient supply chain has a productive capacity at least 10 times greater than the previous supply chain.
Each stove costs less than $20 to produce in India and Darfur, and will provide net economic benefits of approximately $146 per year to IDP families over its five-year life span. The SPS Program is continuing to fund the project to explore financing options through carbon markets, philanthropic donors, and consumer lending to offset the cost of the stove to the consumer. At full production, a factory and assembly workshop capacity can build 25,000 stoves per year, with one year’s production estimated to deliver $30 million of economic benefit over five years. By Fall 2010, the Darfur Stoves Project will have distributed more than 9,000 additional stoves beyond the 5,000 already in use.
"Our ultimate goal is to distribute 300,000 of the stoves in Darfur, which will reach around three-quarters of the displaced population. We're also exploring the potential for expanding the program to other countries as well as continuing to work on making it an even better product by improving emissions and efficiency."-- Andree Sosler, Executive Director, Darfur Stoves Project
Supply chains have become increasingly global over the last few decades thanks to the cost-savings made by manufacturing or sourcing materials from overseas. Nowadays, more and more firms, such as HP, Levi Strauss, Starbucks and Wal-Mart, have started to focus on how they can reduce the environmental footprint and/or social impact of their global supply chains. As the number of sustainable-aware companies grows, there is a greater need to find systematic, effective ways to develop sustainable supply chains.
This project aims to develop a framework and methodology to help firms find the optimal and sustainable strategy for selecting their suppliers. It focuses on a specific set of goods (computers and electronics: flat panels), and specific geographies (shipping goods to the US from Mexico and China). It will provide guidelines for both brand owners and suppliers/manufacturers on decreasing environmental impacts and increasing cost-effective, sustainable performance.
The project is a collaboration between the faculties of Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and the faculty of Industrial Engineering at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México.
Each year, nearly $150 billion and 350 million tons of raw materials are invested into the United States highway infrastructure. As these demands continue to grow, engineers face the increasingly difficult challenge of meeting the needs of traveling public while utilizing environmentally sustainable practices. The objective of this project is to create a state-of-the-art software tool that evaluates the environmental and economic impacts of a road construction project.
The results produced by the tool, PaLATE, will include energy consumption, global warming potential, and a variety of air pollutants emission levels. Each phase of the life cycle (materials production and extraction, construction, use, maintenance and rehabilitation, and end of life) will be evaluated, making this a comprehensive cradle-to-grave analysis tool. PaLATE can be used by researchers, design companies, and transportation agencies to incorporate economic and environmental impacts into their project and policy level decision-making framework.
Developing more efficient processes for carbon dioxide (CO2) capture from the flue streams of power plants is considered key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions implicated in global warming. This project is developing highly porous three-dimensional solids, known as metal-organic frameworks, as new CO2 capture materials. The significant gas uptake and release abilities of these materials have already been demonstrated and are attributed to their porous structures, which give rise to extraordinarily high surface areas. The project is incorporating amine functionalities—which can have a strong and selective affinity for CO2—into the three dimensional structures, which is expected to yield a new class of highly efficient and cost-effective CO2 capture materials. Integrating the new materials into industrial carbon capture and sequestration schemes offers an immense opportunity to reduce atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases on a national and international scale.
This research project is exploring the concept of sustainability as applied to packaging, to determine the best methods for improving the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the packaging industry. It aims to establish a basis for evaluating sustainable packaging manufacture and to determine the inducements and barriers to the take-up of these practices within firms. A research team is investigating sustainability and manufacturing metrics, examining the best methods for benchmarking current packaging options, and exploring how to incorporate metrics into sustainability calculations.
The project is also examining methods of reducing and reusing postconsumer waste, as a precursor to studying how policy mechanisms may be able to improve the use and reuse of packaging. The research team is working with a coalition of manufacturers in the extruder and converter industry, and some of their customers.
"Our research project is trying to paint the bigger picture, demonstrating the breakthrough changes that are possible when you take a more innovative, long-term approach to sustainability." -- Rachel Simon, Project Researcher and Masters student in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
More information is available on the project website at www.lma.berkeley.edu/sustainablepackaging.
The global demand for fresh water is rising at an unprecedented rate, provoked by a population growth of 40-50% in the next fifty years, combined with increasingly resource-intensive lifestyles. To avoid a worldwide water crisis, it is critical that we develop sustainable renewable energy-powered technologies for fresh water supply.
This project addresses the water-energy nexus by exploring a more efficient water production process using biomimetics. The inspiration for the new process comes from the Namib Desert beetle, which scavenges its drinking water from fog-laden wind. Water vapor condenses on the hydrophilic bumps on the beetle’s back, rolls onto the hydrophobic valleys, and trickles into its mouth.
Essentially, this project emulates the beetle’s process by developing highly efficient micro/nano-engineered surfaces that minimize the available useful energy needed to condense water. This innovation of enhanced condensing surfaces will support fresh water production at a lower cost and lower carbon footprint than conventional water desalination techniques. Its implications will be particularly relevant in developing countries and drought areas where water shortages have dire effects on people’s health and economic conditions.
Infections acquired in hospitals are common in the developing world, where medical supplies are often re-used, and sanitary supplies are limited. As antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria grow worldwide, this challenge is becoming greater. There is a need for new low-cost, sustainable, scalable technology to provide infection control.
Researcher David Graves and his team are designing, prototyping, and testing devices and applications for attacking infections and disease transmission in the developing world, using ambient gas plasma. The plasma has been shown to kill bacteria on objects, skin, and in wounds. An electrical current ionizes the oxygen, nitrogen and water vapor in the air, creating nitric oxide, hydrogen peroxide and particles that fight bacteria, viruses and fungi.
The research team is creating a hand-held, rechargeable ambient gas plasma device. After optimizing the electronic components in the device, and characterizing the resulting plasmas, the researchers will test the prototype devices against bacteria in a laboratory setting. The first application will be a device that can be used for sterilization and antisepsis of medical equipment that would typically be reused in the developing world.
With more than 2.6 billion people without access to improved sanitation, and with most cities in the developing world lacking adequate wastewater treatment, the world cannot afford to implement sanitation projects that fail. Yet the reality is that many sanitation schemes are in disrepair several months after commissioning. Affordable, environmentally sustainable, and lasting sanitation solutions for emerging urban areas demands a shift away from schemes that have high economic costs, are energy and resource intensive, and are designed for the disposal of sewage and wastewater. Appropriate sanitation solutions for unserved populations include schemes that are low-cost, produce rather than consume energy, and are designed for the reuse of treated sewage and wastewater.
To help facilitate the shift to this new sanitation paradigm, the SPS Program funded this project in 2008/09 to develop two tools that make up a toolkit for urban sanitation planners and stakeholders. The first tool is a novel sustainability assessment (SA) for evaluating and monitoring existing sanitation infrastructure; the second is a five-step ‘Design for Service’ (DFS) planning and decision-making protocol for developing reuse-oriented waste treatment systems.
In 2009/10, the SPS Program provided further funding to pilot the toolkit in Ghana. The team leader registered a Limited Liability Company, Waste Enterprisers, which is using the DFS approach to establish profitable enterprises at treatment facilities. They have established a commercial fish farm in the final pond of a wastewater treatment system in the city of Kumasi. Fifty percent of profits from the sale of the fish will be used to help cover the treatment plant’s operating costs. The SPS Program is funding research into the occupational and consumer health risks associated with wastewater-fed aquaculture to develop a series of best management practices for wider use.
"Our business model is simple but entirely novel for this sector. Our core belief is that integrating reuse into the design and operation of sanitation systems is not only a benefit to environmental sustainability but can radically improve the financial model that currently governsâ€"and constrainsâ€"the sustainable operation of treatment plants." -- Ashley Murray, Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley
A billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. The QH2O project is developing a water disinfection product that is effective against viruses, bacteria, and protozoan cysts. The product is based on media coated with non-leaching antimicrobial compounds that disinfect the water as it flows through the device. When complete, the new product aims to be very low-cost, leave no taste or odor, need little maintenance and be easy to manufacture, transport and use. That makes it particularly suited to use in developing countries where many households’ water sources are contaminated.
As the new antimicrobial surfaces are being developed, the project has also conducted focus groups in Vellore, India, to assess the type of physical configuration users would prefer. This information will be used to inform the development of the first product prototype by the end of 2011.
"We're hoping that our product, once commercialized, will have a large impact in reducing diarrhea in low income families, particularly among young children, since that's where the main disease burden in the developing world lies. Our design is particularly compelling because not only will it kill pathogens like human viruses, which are often not treated by existing products, but our device will also be fairly easy and quick to use.
That's critical for successful adoption, because water collection in the developing world is the responsibility primarily of children and women who simply don't have much time to spare. So a device that can treat larger volumes of water more quickly will be a huge improvement over many of the products currently available." -- Kara L. Nelson, Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley
The UC Berkeley team, led by Professors Kara Nelson and Roya Maboudian, has collaborated with the Aquaya Institute (Peter Kozodoy) and the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India. Q-H2O is also part of the Safe Water and Sanitation Initiative at the Blum Center for Developing Economies.
In 2010-2011, the team completed research on how to optimize coating silicon surfaces with QAC compounds, providing information on the effects of various design and operation parameters so the performance of different designs can be predicted. A PhD student presented the research at the WEF 2011 Disinfection Conference in April 2011. A potential industrial partner has been identified. The research team will now be conducting long-term filtration studies that compare the team's QAX media with several other coated media.
A versatile diversity-based strategy is proposed for the generation of new enzymatic catalysts for sustainable chemical synthesis. Starting with a lead sequence, large numbers of protein variants with altered catalytic activity will be generated on the tips of phage particles. Chemical methods will be used to attach polymer chains to each phage, allowing them to be solubilized in aqueous or organic solvents. The enzyme candidate on each phage particle will then be assessed for its ability to convert substrates at the ends of the polymer chains into desired products. A chromatography step will be used to isolate the phage displaying the highest levels of conversion, and thus the phage possessing the most active enzymes on their surfaces. This technique will represent one of the first and most general activity-based methods for the rapid evolution of new enzymatic reactions, and thus will have a transformative effect on the development of new processes that can proceed in environmentally benign media with little waste generation.
In this project, researchers engineered bacteria that can create biofuel at about ten times the rate of other microbes. The advance was reported in the May 2011 issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
Species of the Clostridium bacteria naturally produce a chemical called n-butanol that could be a substitute for oil and gasoline. Previous methods to increase n-butanol by genetically alterating bacteria, or inserting enzymes into other microbes, have not produced the amounts that are necessary for affordable production.
Researcher Michelle Chang and her colleagues found an innovative technique that can produce nearly five grams of n-butanol per liter, which is about 10 times more efficient than current industrial microbe systems like yeast and E. coli.
Chang believes it is likely that by improving enzyme activity at other bottlenecks in the n-butanol synthesis pathway, and by optimizing the host microbe for production of n-butanol, she can boost production two to three times, enough to justify considering scaling up to an industrial process. She is also at work adapting the new synthetic pathway to work in yeast, used in the industrial production of many chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The provisional patent for the research is being licensed by an outside company and the researchers may assist them in commercialization.
MSNBC: Bacteria Turned into Biofuel Factories
SETI Radio: Fuel's Paradise
Chemical & Engineering News:
Retooling A Bacterial Biofuel Factory
UC Berkeley Press Release:
Turning Bacteria into Butanol Biofuel Factories
Sustainable energy conversion is one of humankind’s greatest challenges. We are beginning to realize the myriad of health and environmental effects, the most dire being global warming, that result from the combustion of fossil fuels as human society’s predominant source of energy. As the political, economic, and environmental costs of fossil fuels rise, there is an urgent need for heating, cooling and electrical generation that is locally produced, cost-competitive, and nearly carbon neutral.
This research team aims to develop a new solar technology based on the principle of concentrating sunlight to produce heat. The proposed Rankine cycle heat engine system will convert sunlight to heat at 60-80% solar thermal efficiency and electricity at 8-10% solar-electric efficiency, allowing adjustment of heat and electrical output on demand. The project will:
In summary, this research is the development of a small heat engine able to operate efficiently in low concentration solar energy applications.
This project is addressing critical barriers to the widespread adoption of more sustainable cookstoves in impoverished regions in western China. The project is a collaboration between UC Berkeley’s departments of Environmental Health Sciences,Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and the Haas School of Business.
The SPS Award is helping to move an existing China stove project, funded by the USEPA and Wuppertal Institute, from a pilot phase to a sustainable and replicable business model that uses international carbon financing to promote high-performing, cost-effective stoves.
The project is delivering high-quality carbon offsets to the voluntary carbon market by utilizing both a recently accepted Gold Standard Methodology for valuing carbon offsets from improved cookstoves, and new monitoring technologies currently being developed by the project research group. Rigorous field experiments, surveys, and market analyses are helping to demonstrate quantifiable health, environmental, economic, and social “co-benefits” from large-scale dissemination of the cookstoves. This work will also help guide the development of future carbon market standards towards valuing rural energy development opportunities with the most cost-effective and attractive co-benefits.
"The climate benefits from one of our stoves is a saving of around 3.5 tons of CO2 equivalent per year, which has the scope to have a huge impact once they're distributed on a mass scale. Just as important, this will bring huge financial and health benefits to rural farmers in China, who have average incomes of just $1,000-$2,00 a year. Over 50% of the population of China is rural, so there's significant potential for widespread impact." -â€" Jimmy Tran