Arup SenGupta, recipient of many honors for his efforts to remove arsenic from drinking water, has added a major award for his more recent fight against fluoride contamination.
On Nov. 15, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California, SenGupta won a prize from TechAwards, a nonprofit organization founded by multinational corporations in Silicon Valley. The awards ceremony was attended by 1,400 people.
SenGupta, the P.C. Rossin Professor of civil and environmental engineering and also of chemical engineering, won the Intel Environmental Award, one of six 2012 Tech Laureate grand prizes awarded by TechAwards. The award carries a cash prize of $75,000.
TechAwards recognized SenGupta for using technology to transform a water crisis into an economic enterprise. Nearly 500 million people in Africa and Asia drink groundwater with excessive amounts of fluoride. Such contamination has been associated with dental problems, joint pain, limb deformities and other ills.
Tech Awards annually honors entrepreneurs and innovators who apply technology to solve global problems. Awards are given in six categories: Education, Environment, Health, Energy, Economic Development and Young Innovators. More than 700 nominations from over 60 countries were submitted this year.
SenGupta has donated his prize money to the Tagore-SenGupta Foundation (T-S), an organization he started with his students, which supports community projects related to clean water, sanitation and education.
In 2011, T-S won the 2011 Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge, an international contest that aims to improve people’s access to safe and sustainable water.
Reed Elsevier cited SenGupta and his group for their efforts to install in Cambodian villages and schools a system that removes arsenic from groundwater. Developed by SenGupta and his students over the past 16 years, the system—the world’s first reusable arsenic-selective adsorbent—is now being used in seven different countries.
Through the Tagore-SenGupta Foundation, SenGupta and his students will use the TechAwards prize to conduct field tests of fluoride mitigation technology that the group developed at Lehigh.
Earlier this year, with the support of a Fulbright Environmental Leadership Award, SenGupta spent six months at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India.
SenGupta and Surapol Padungthon, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering, have developed an adsorbent that is capable of removing both arsenic and fluoride.
The Fulbright award, titled the Fulbright-Nehru Grant, enabled SenGupta to work with scientists and engineers in India to streamline the development of the adsorbent through laboratory and field work in areas of India whose groundwater is contaminated with fluoride or arsenic.
Story by Kurt Pfitzer
Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2012