An inventive drought solution that will turn deserts green

Need for water: Climate change is forcing new thought on innovations in facing drier conditions in vast areas of the globe. Scientists can’t yet determine the outcome of our planet’s climate, so we only can respond to what we see now to help us and future generations survive.

What we are: This is the world’s most efficient system of harvesting water from air. SunGlacier began as an art-meets-science project and now holds real world applications that can change how water resources are perceived. Our team is maximizing a new and natural configuration of sunlight, air and gravity that can produce potable water from air nearly anywhere on the planet, even in hot and dry deserts. This revolutionary patent-pending technology has demonstrated stunning success in first laboratory tests. One prototype is housed within an industrial model, and the other demonstrator is based in a modern sculpture designed by Dutch artist and SunGlacier project creator, Ap Verheggen.

How it works: On an April 2017 testing mission in the hot Mali desert, our team found that with current condensation technology using cooling surfaces, too much water is lost by evaporation. This inspired us to design a much more effective system that functions without the loss of evaporation. The new SunGlacier Watermaker TM01 system is far more energy efficient, and has no cooling surfaces or moving parts except for a small water pump.

The TM01 water harvesting process:

  1. Water is cooled down below dew point and then sprayed by a nozzle into a cylinder.
  2. Air is drawn automatically into the cylinder by the falling water, and condensation begins instantly.
  3. The volume increases rapidly, and harvested water is collected in a reservoir ready for use.

 

Water circulation in the system is cooled constantly over a 24-hour period through the use of fluids that can store low temperatures. These fluids are cooled by solar energy during daylight, and therefore only a small battery is needed to circulate the water. This simple but effective off-grid water production system can be built cheaply.

Potential applications: The water produced can be used for drinking, with the addition of minerals, and for agriculture. Numerous other applications are also possible where water is urgently needed. In addition, the system is sustainable as water harvested from the air is merely “borrowed” for a relatively brief time. Water consumed by humans returns to the natural cycle within a matter of hours, and approximately 90% of water used for agricultural applications also is also quickly recycled into the air through evaporation.

The next steps: This is indeed a theoretical breakthrough in water resource technology. Now that the first design steps have been realized, a new series of tests is taking place with an industrial-sized prototype in a variable climate room in the Netherlands. With the results of this advanced testing, a technical production partner will be sought to optimize and build the systems for applications in areas of need around the world. This SunGlacier Watermaker system can then spark a truly unique and effective range of solutions for adapting to climate impacts in dry areas of need nearly anywhere.

We have discovered the missing puzzle piece to build a new kind of water well!

Sunshine, gravity and air – three natural things that are free to everyone. We are applying these elements to their maximum potential (together in a unique way) to contribute to the solution of the earth’s main problem: fresh, clean water availability

A project of waterfalls to help fill world water supplies.

How it works: We use a bit of water to produce (much) more water through condensation. A condensation surface is no longer needed. The process is done through cooling down a small cascade of water below dew point, and then with gravity, the surrounding air is drawn into the water that is falling. The cascade cools the outside air down and the moisture is instantly condensed against the falling drops of water!

Solar panels are inexpensive, as is the cooler unit used in the project. This unit generates cold during the day and stores it in mass volumes. It takes only a small amount of energy to circulate the water during the evening, the night and the early morning. This is far more effective in generating water because it is not necessary to cool the water as much as needed during a hot day. In addition, if there is energy available, these highly-efficient machines can run as well during an entire day. This tested innovative technology works even efficient at temperatures above 50 Celcius. (122 F)

Our project features:
– Generation of potable water from surrounding air
– Inexpensive drinking water for anyone everywhere on the planet
– Breakthrough technology applying natural elements as never before
– Realizing possibilities of agriculture production in desert areas

This truly innovative technology is based on simple natural concepts, so machines can be made relatively inexpensively.

The board of DCHI (Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation) expressed its support and commitment to jointly explore the value of SunGlacier in the humanitarian context. ( See the letter of support. ) DCHI consists of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Municipality of The Hague, the Netherlands Red Cross, CARE Netherlands, UNICEF Netherlands, and VNO-NCW.

The project will be presented to the public on 7 September 2017 at the Making Waves event in the Netherlands with Kofi Anan, former UN Secretary General, and General Tom Middendorp, Dutch Chief of Defence.

 

We did it!

The Dutch Ministry of Defense invited the SunGlacier team to Mali, where we are able to test our idea – making water out of thin air – in the middle of the Sahara desert, the driest, hottest place on earth. It was a success! With our SunGlacier project, we demonstrate that it is possible to harvest water from air, using only solar energy – making SunGlacier probably the world’s first artificial water well to work entirely off the grid.

Before we left, we knew our design worked in ideal conditions; now – after a punishing week in the Sahara — we know we can make it work almost anywhere.

The underlying principle is simple:

When you grab a can soda out of the fridge on a hot summer day, small water drops appear on the surface. This is how we make SunGlacier work: condensation.

  • During the Dutch summer, these droplets start appearing when the can is approximately 15 degrees colder than the outside temperature.
  • But in Mali, which is much, much dryer – typical air on a Mali summer’s day holds roughly half the water vapor than the air on a dry hot day in the Netherlands – you need a 50-degree-difference in temperature to see those droplets.

So, making water out of thin air, using a 12Volts, 50Watt system, in the driest conditions is a huge challenge.

Inspired by Moon Landers, we built the “Desert Twins” especially for this occasion. One of them is the water maker, which runs with the same power as a small car light, the other one contains our energy unit, which stores the solar power.

The first three days of testing were frustrating; our own sweat was the only liquid produced.

Despite the fact that during the course day the water maker was located in the shadow of the solar panel, the unit was still too hot to function. We soon realized that solar radiation reflecting off the surrounding sand was to blame. Our solution was to add a layer of insulation outside and inside of the box.

Next we discovered that by burying a cooling pipe 2 meters under ground – where it is 4 degrees less hot — we could air cool our apparatus in the punishing heat. Unfortunately, the advantage was short-lived: given the insulating properties of desert sand, we soon had heated the sand around the pipe, and the temperature differential dwindled down to nothing.

So to further protect the apparatus from solar radiation – the unit was still too hot — we decided to build a tent around the water unit. But, still no water.

At some point the motor of our condenser started to overheat and make strange noises – the first signs of a total collapse. We re-configured our cooling air streams inside the machine. The noise didn’t stop, but the temperature inside the box decreased. Our morale improved.

Finally, on the fourth day, we succeeded in cooling the ambient air inside the box to such an extent that condensation could take place and something other than steam was possible. We opened the box, removed the insulation and saw, for the first time, actual liquid water. We had finally succeeded!

But the desert air was so thirsty that we witnessed a new phenomenon: upon opening the SunGlacier our water and ice evaporated so fast, that within 10 minutes everything disappeared. We had just enough time to document our success on photo and video.

On day 5 we produced even more water and ice – the extremely dense ice was harder than a rock.

We had succeeded in harvesting water in very harsh conditions, drawing about the same current as is needed to run a standard car headlight.

We learned so much in the desert. When we build a next model, our design will be even better. Our next priorities are: water storage and cleaning and enriching the water with minerals and salts.

The aim is to build a machine that works like a well – one that doesn’t need a liquid water source or electricity to operate.

But the real challenge now is finding a way to share our success – and our know-how – with the world.

It worked

SunGlacier succeeded to harvest water out of extreme hot and dry air in the desert of Mali. – powered by solar energy -.
General Middendorp, Dutch Chief of Defence, invited the SunGlacier team to perform different tests at UN camp Castor in Gao, Mali.
The first results will be unveiled at the press conference, organised by The Dutch Ministry of Defence, on April  25th in The Hague. 

 

 

SunGlacier DC04: Desert Twins shipped to the Sahara.

The SunGlacier team is looking forward to testing its latest structure in ultra-harsh locations. The DC04 “Desert Twins” – with their design inspired by a Moon lander – will embark on a mission that some experts say is too extreme to succeed. We are still optimistic because SunGlacier is focused on bending the impossible to make a beneficial project into a reality.

Is it really possible to harvest usable amounts of fresh water from air in one of hottest and driest areas on this planet? To find the answer our team is transporting the Twins to the Sahara for testing in a desert with temperatures of 40C – 45 Celsius  (104F – 113 Fahrenheit ) and a relative humidity less than 10%.  

If the DC04 Desert Twins succeed in producing water on site in these harsh conditions, there will be proof that our concept can be used nearly anywhere. In a few weeks updates will be published on this website and our Facebook page: SunGlacier.

Keep a watch for “impossible” updates coming soon!

SunGlacier DC02

 

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.