2014 Odebrecht Award

The winners of the third U.S. edition of the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development were unveiled on September 23, 2014 at an award ceremony at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to cash prizes, the finalists received a piece of sustainability of their own: a trophy produced with Braskem’s ‘I’m green’ Polyethylene – 100% recyclable plastic made from sugarcane, a renewable resource.

Video: 2014 Winning Projects

Video: 2014 Winning Projects

Video: 2014 Ceremony Highlights

Video: 2014 Ceremony Highlights

2014 Winners

Texas A&M University


Production of Gasoline from Municipal Solid Waste by Carboxylate Fermentation

Students: Jeremy Seidel, Samarpita Roy, Victoria Ehlinger

Advising Professor: Mark Holtzapple

Executive Summary

This report describes a waste-to-fuels process that diverts 67% of municipal solid waste (MSW) from landfills to profitably produce gasoline and recycled metals. The process contains four major sections: waste sorting, fermetation, membrane extraction, and Kolbe electrolysis. MSW contains approximately 60% digestible components such as food, yard, and paper waste. In the fermentation naturally occurring microbes digest the waste into carboxylic acids containing 2 to 9 carbons. Then, these acids are extracted through hollow-fiber membranes ... and sent to Kolbe electrolysis, which converts the acids into alkanes, the primary component of gasoline.

Laboratory experiments were performed to determine the fermentation rates, product yields, and extraction parameters.  An economic analysis showed that a 2,000 tonne per day plant located in New York City costs $467 million and has an ROI of 42%.  A location-based sensitivity analysis shows that the process is even more profitable in densely populated urban areas with high landfill tipping fees and high gasoline prices.  For example, in Seoul the ROI is 70% ROI. This process reduces landfill space, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, creates jobs, and helps meet increasing demand for liquid transportation fuels.  It uses the organic component of the waste stream, which is typically discarded by recycling companies.  The final product is compatible with current infrastructure and combustion engines.

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Florida International University


Sprayable Solar Panel as Sustainable Low Cost and Disaster Relief Energy Source

Students: James Caraballo, Yonatan Rotenberg, Sami Awad Azrak

Advising Professor: Bilal El-Zahab

Executive Summary

In underdeveloped countries and after catastrophes, the supply of electricity is often rationed or unavailable for extended time. Solar cells alleviate the demands on the supply network of the affected region and facilitate additional efforts to supply medicine, food, and clean water. Compared to silicon solar cells, dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) provide cost effective power. We present an innovative sprayable design for DSSCs that can be applied on site to existing transparent surfaces and is ... viable and replicable on a broad scale. The layers of the DSSCs are converted into sprayable materials. Our analyses indicate a 2.5-fold reduction in shipping weight over monocrystalline silicon panels. The spray DSSC would weigh 38.91 g/W while a silicon panel weighs 90.7 g/W. The volume comparison is a huge 16-fold difference. The DSSC is 125 cc/W versus 2010 cc/W for a silicon panel. This new form of DSSCs is more compact, lightweight, and contains no fragile materials (e.g. glass) making shipments to remote places more affordable. The most promising improvement is the 6-fold reduction in direct cost. When scaled up, the DSSC costs $0.30/W while the silicon panel costs $1.83/W. Our optimized spray DSSC is valuable in disaster relief and introduces an affordable and environmentally responsible energy source to the public. This results in measurable, significant impact, and creates real change. It will make communities more prosperous and add to their quality of life.

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Rice University


A GPS-Enabled Three-Bike Rack to Connect Communities in the Developed and Developing World

Students: Kivani Sanchez, Max Hasbrouck, Brian Barr

Advising Professor: Matthew Wettergreen

Executive Summary

Global warming has become one of the primary challenges facing humanity in the twenty first century, and the way people in both developed and developing nations approach transportation plays a major role in greenhouse gas emissions. Public transportation systems offer a chance to consolidate ridership and reduce waste, but they come at the cost of a restricted range of stops, leaving riders just short of their final destinations (termed the “Last Mile Problem”). Bicycles, when ... used with such systems, increase the range of accessibility for commuters, and solve this problem. We set out to improve bus systems by increasing the ability to jointly use buses and bicycles to inexpensively and efficiently traverse urban environments. We outline a plan to increase bus-bike ridership by improving the capacity and transparency of bus-bike rack usage with a GPS-based, collapsible three-bike rack. By creating this collapsible bike rack we expand the number of buses on which three bikes can be transported without impeding the driver’s operation. Additionally, a bike sensor increases the information available to commuters, allowing them to better plan out and orchestrate their use of public transit systems. Our design is also financially profitable, providing an incentive for its widespread deployment. These factors together allow for a significant increase in public transportation usage, helping to connect communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in urban settings worldwide.

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Special Recognition

University with the highest number of entries among the Top 15 entries.

John Hopkins University

Andrew Winston


Blake D. Welling

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Branch Chief

Cristina Jorge Schwarz, PG

Apex Companies, LLC

Program Manager

Dave Mashek

Meinert/Mashek Communications


David E. Nash

Nash Daniels Advisors LLC

Senior Advisor

Edward J. Miller, CPBE

Broadcast Consultant

Erin Krampetz

Ashoka U

Co-Founder and Community Director

Neal McAliley

White & Case


Randall Moreland, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB

Moreland Architecture + Sustainable Design


The Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development helps bridge the gap between the academic and corporate worlds, and find solutions that promote sustainability via the transfer and application of technology into the operational practice of business, especially in the areas where the Odebrecht Organization operates.