SunGlacier is invited to perform experiments in the deserts of Mali. The Dutch Chief of Defence, general Tom Middendorp made the official announcement. This will be the ultimate challenge to harvest solar water from hot and dry desert air.
All technology is published on the SunGlacier website
The 20-inch cube of stainless steel is embedded with solar cells that power a refrigeration device, which in turn cools off an inverted cone to create condensation. Gravity then drips accumulated condensate into a glass to provide fresh drinking water. The challenge was to cool down the cone to just above freezing point without using a huge amount of energy. After several trials we managed to achieve that goal with 25 Watts of energy. The small solar panels on the top and sides of the cube produce 40 Watts, which allows to store excess energy in batteries for less sunny conditions. With the SunGlacier team we are doing research to find more solutions for cooling down surfaces in its most efficient way, off-grid, powered by solar, easy to scale up, and cheap to produce. Many people need to enjoy their own source of drinking water in the future, especially in drought-hit areas. Next to this device, we are developing a system that doesn’t have moving parts, perfectly to use for open agriculture. Later more about this new project.
Ap Verheggen, SunGlacier’s creative mind, just returned from Iran where he joined a unique Wetskills event. Ap is appointed as an ambassdor and student coordinator for the Wetskills organisation, that mix Dutch and local students, in order to find “out of the box” solutions for real life water related challenges. Many countries already participated before in the Wetskills events: United States, Great-Brittain, India, South Africa, Taiwan, etc..
Following two weeks of hard work, cooperation and fun, the fice Wetskills teams presented their pitches and posters of this Wetskills Water Challenge in Iran. The ideas pitched were vastly ranging from technical solutions to give more time in adapting lifestyle for Rafsajan pistachio farmers to integrating sensor technology to create awareness by installing a large flamingo in Lake Urmia, reacting to water level, to entice inhabitants to a race to fill up the lake. A nice new introduction of rice farming in combination with dredging was given as solution for silting up of Anzali port and peach juice production as alternative livelihoods for the Hashgerd plain included a good sense of community work and regional economy development. Missing links were noticed in society and technology for the case of clean drinking water and by closing the gaps a solution was found.
Minister of Environment and Infrastructure of Kingdom of The Netherlands, Ms. Schultz van Haegen (middle) announced and awarded the winning team of Wetskills-Iran.
Scientists from several universities in South Africa visited the SunGlacier sculpture at Museum Beelden aan Zee. They were suprised by the amount of water that the sculpture produced. South Africa is hit by drought as well, and these young generation experts were impressed by the SunGlacier technology.
We succeeded to produce Solar Water without a fan, a battery nor a convertor: directly attached to a solar panel. This means that we just made the first steps in the development of an extremely cheap Solar Water device with no maintenance at all. There are no moving parts anymore that can break.
A few years ago I made a sketch: Solar Circles that produce water out of air. At that time it was my vision to put them in a field and they produce water to keep everything green. Hopefully we soon find the finance to take the next steps. We already proved that it really works. Soon an update.
There has been some confusion between relative humidity and the quantity of water contained in the air. The graphic below shows the absolute humidity in grams of water per cubic meter.
If one compares a typical wet spring day in the Netherlands to a hot and dry day in a desert, you see that the desert air actually contains up to 4 times more water, in terms of quantity. It seems strange, but one of the conclusions is that the Netherlands is drier than a hot desert – of course related to humidity.
Relative humidity indicates the percentage of water before it starts to condenseinto rain of fog. Warm air is able to contain much more water before condensation than cold air. The amount is even raising exponentially.
The SunGlacier team tested the limits to investigate how small we can build a water harvest machine that is off-grid, powered by solar energy. Because solar energy can be limited and variable – with cloud cover and night cycles – we faced the challenge to use all energy as efficient as possible. The first SunGlacier sculpture is built with existing, off-the-shelf technology, but the latest WaterCube is built with our own custom-designed technology.
We succeeded in producing 20cl of water in Dutch summer conditions, using a 50cm solar panel, 25Watt – 12 Volt. The complete cooling and ventilation system of the WaterCube is as small in size as the water-condensing cone itself.
This is so promising that we decided to continue building on the momentum of what we are discovering in our project. Our next goal is to produce at least 10 liters a day, even without running or moving components. Such a setup would require minimal maintenance.
The water that we produce is simply condensed from the air (like rainwater), and the system is very cheap and simple to clean with a small filter which also adds essential minerals to the water.
The demand for water is growing as more people and natural resources are drying up. SunGlacier started as an art project, and still is, but we noticed that parts of our technical “solutions” are not available on the market. It should be noted that we do not pretend to have THE global water solution, have but found an application that is easy and inexpensive to build in mass production. It can be used to help thirsty people at a personal and community level – especially in off-grid areas.
As an Art Project we have not yet succeeded in finding funds to accelerate and expand our testing in the Netherlands and other parts of the world. Even so, with the limited budget we have, we succeeded to build some proof of concepts.
Regarding the price of water there are two options: nearly for free, or not available at all. Unfortunately the second option is growing, so it is high time to take action and focus on solutions.