“Desert Twins” in Sahara

“Desert Twins” in Sahara

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 in the driest condition 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.

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!

Articles

A selection of Dutch and International Publications:

2019:

BLOOMBERG TV

DE TELEGRAAF
https://www.telegraaf.nl/entertainment/3548700/broodkunst-met-vleugje-sciencefiction?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic

HET PAROOL
https://www.parool.nl/kunst-media/brood-als-inspiratie-knedend-dansen-en-dna-van-gist~b14b8cbb/

IN FOCUS – WIEF
https://infocus.wief.org/bringing-water-to-the-desert/

2018:

OZY
https://www.ozy.com/rising-stars/the-inventor-trying-to-suck-water-from-the-worlds-driest-air/86895

DE INGENIEUR
https://www.deingenieur.nl/artikel/apparaat-vermeerdert-water

CHINA.COM
https://finance.china.com/hyzx/20000618/20180612/25222848.html

2017:

TROUW
https://www.trouw.nl/cultuur/ap-verheggen-dit-apparaat-is-het-hoogtepunt-van-mijn-leven~aa795293/

AD
https://www.ad.nl/binnenland/kunstenaar-maakt-water-met-water~af94cfb7/

DEZEEN
https://www.dezeen.com/2017/06/19/sunglacier-harnesses-solar-power-harvest-water-sahara-desert-twins-technology/

DEUTSCHE WELLE (video)
https://www.dw.com/en/making-moisture-in-the-desert/av-39174087

INHABITAT
https://inhabitat.com/desert-twins-produce-water-through-condensation-in-driest-place-on-earth/

RTL NEWS (video)
http://107.181.166.244/video/GzT9EorrPGE/van-droom-naar-werkelijkheid-zo-kan-je-water-make-rtl-nieuws

NOS
https://nos.nl/artikel/2170164-water-maken-in-de-woestijn-van-droom-naar-werkelijkheid.html

VOLKSKRANT
https://www.volkskrant.nl/nieuws-achtergrond/dit-apparaat-produceert-drinkwater-met-zonne-energie~b9c9a8c4/

HITNOLOGY (Japan – video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=ozUY3Sy614A

REUTERS (video)
https://www.reuters.com/video/2017/02/14/a-decades-long-running-solar-powered-wat?videoId=371116566

FUTURISM (video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=Cz0rClky5KI

DESIGN BOOM
https://www.designboom.com/technology/ap-verheggen-water-sculptures-sunglacier-02-08-2017/

NEWS OF BAHRAIN
http://www.newsofbahrain.com/epaper/31-01-2017/single/page-04.pdf

NPO RADIO (Dutch)
https://www.nporadio1.nl/wetenschap-techniek/3925-knap-kunstje-water-halen-uit-woestijnlucht

DE TELEGRAAF
https://www.telegraaf.nl/nieuws/331515/wonderwaterval-in-de-woestijn

VTM NIEUWS
https://nieuws.vtm.be/buitenland/nederlander-maakt-water-woestijn

2016

NEW YORK TIMES
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/arts/design/dutch-artists-sculpture-offers-a-splash-from-thin-air.html

NEW YORK TIMES (2010)
https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/22/business/energy-environment/sculptor-turns-to-possibilities-of-the-desert.html

LA STAMPA
https://www.lastampa.it/2017/03/07/scienza/ambiente/ecomarketing/acqua-dallaria-la-magia-viene-dallolanda-T3UnjNi97LEVsyw4zZkT4O/pagina.html

WE DEMAIN
https://www.wedemain.fr/Aux-Pays-Bas-cette-machine-produit-de-l-eau-potable-grace-a-l-air-et-au-soleil_a2049.html

REUTERS (video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=D3WvlQ8z0tU

2015:

WASHINGTON TIMES (by Asscociated Press)
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/26/water-crisis-dutch-artist-to-make-ice-in-desert/

REUTERS
https://www.reuters.com/video/2015/05/14/dutch-innovator-sees-ice-in-the-desert?videoId=224593453

2DOC
https://www.2doc.nl/documentaires/series/npo-doc-exclusief/2015/iceberg-riders.html

2014:

DICOVERY CHANNEL
https://vimeo.com/87123898

DEUTSCHE WIRTSCHAFTS NACHRICHTEN
http://deutsche-wirtschafts-nachrichten.de/2014/10/01/solarblatt-erzeugt-eis-in-der-wueste/

LE PARISIEN
http://www.leparisien.fr/magazine/grand-angle/futur-faire-de-l-eau-avec-de-l-air-20-02-2014-3608779.php#xtref=http%3A%2F%2Factualites.leparisien.fr%2Fap-verheggen

2013:

TROUW
https://www.trouw.nl/home/een-ijzige-fata-morgana~a877329e/

THE WEATHER CHANNEL
https://weather.com/science/environment/news/sunglacier-could-we-deep-freeze-desert-20131124

2012:

Egypt Independent
https://ww.egyptindependent.com/sunglacier-could-produce-water-air-egyptian-desert/

2011:

THE ENGINEER
https://www.theengineer.co.uk/artificial-leaf-could-grow-a-layer-of-ice-in-desert-conditions/

CBC NEWS
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/desert-glacier-looks-to-mix-art-science/

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES
https://www.ibtimes.com.au/sunglacier-project-hopes-turn-desert-ice-1289429

2010:

REUTERS
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-dutch-iceberg/artist-places-sculptures-on-melting-arctic-iceberg-idUSTRE62I4GS20100320

VOLKSKRANT
https://www.volkskrant.nl/nieuws-achtergrond/met-zonne-energie-ijs-maken-in-de-sahara~b01dc4d9/

CBC
https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/iceberg-melting-sinks-sculpture-project-1.927124

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.

Project Outline

Project Outline

‘Climate Change = Culture Change’

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 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 (Droppler) 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 (Droppler) is far more energy efficient, and has no cooling surfaces.

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.

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

Ap Verheggen with Kofi Annan

 

The climates of the world are dynamic processes to which cultures have adapted since time immemorial. Scientists are telling us that we are currently between ice ages while at the same time the globe is warming up at an unprecedented rate and weather is becoming ever more extreme in many places on earth. It is very important therefore, now more than ever, that people learn to respond to climate change in a creative and innovative way.

The SunGlacier art/science project hopes to stimulate people to think creatively about solutions to the challenges of climate change. These changes are not necessarily all negative or better still, if we can find a way to turn some of them to our advantage then nothing should stop us to do so. To carry this fresh and positive way of thinking forward.

Desert Twins: Solar powered water from air technology tested in Mali