Aviva Presser has a deep commitment to addressing the energy needs in developing countries. As the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Lebônê, Aviva adapted microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology to address one of Africa’s most pressing needs—lighting and energy. More than five hundred million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have either no access or limited access to electricity. For those that do have access, the cost of energy and electricity often comprises a significant and burdensome percentage of their income.
Through her ingenuity, Presser adapted MFC technology to create a prototype that “could be combined with low-power LED’s to build a system that produces energy and light from dirt” in a cost-efficient and sustainable manner. Presser’s microbial fuel cells can be used to charge cell phone batteries and power small devices, such as LED lights and radios. Through her work, Lebônê won the 2008 $200,000 World Bank Lighting Africa competition allowing her to pilot her MFC technology in Namibia and Tanzania. In September 2008, Discover Magazine named Presser’s use of MFC technology as the number one everyday technology that can change the world.
Presser is also a co-inventor of the Soccket, a soccer ball that produces electricity by being kicked around. The Soccket generates and stores energy for use in simple DC devices, such as LED lights, cell phones, or radios. The Soccket harnesses the incredible popularity of soccer in many developing countries without adequate electricity infrastructure. The Soccket team will pilot the device in South Africa during the summer of 2009.
With a diverse research background in engineering, atomic physics, biology and astronomy, Presser is currently a PhD student in Applied Math and Genomics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is studying non-coding regulation in the HOX clusters and epigenomic regulation and dysregulation in Wilms, a pediatric kidney tumor.
With her husband, Erez Lieberman, also a finalist for the 2008 and 2009, Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, Aviva founded Bears without Borders, an international NGO that hires local artisans in developing countries to produce stuffed bears and deliver them to chronically ill children and orphans.
Presser is the recipient of the 2008 World Bank 200K Lighting Africa Competition Prize, 2003 and 2007 graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation, and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, respectively. She was the recipient of the 2007 Harlequin “More than Words” Award, an international award honoring five women who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities. Presser is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in Chemical Engineering.