Ice in the desert

solar powered sculpture creates ice in desert

Sun Glacier by Dutch artist Ap Verheggen uses solar power to create ice and water as a solution to water scarcity.

Ap Verheggen is a Dutch artist and Cultural Ambassador for UNESCO-IHE who has been working on a project that fascinates me on a number of levels. As an artist who appreciates hybrid practices that bridge disciplines like art and engineering, I love the application of art and engineering in Sun Glacier. Sun Glacier exists only as a proposal at this point, but development and testing of electro-mechanical elements of the project have been ongoing for the past few years. The artist has stated that two possible installations may happen this year.

This technological feat performs both practically and poetically through the creation of a large leaf-shaped sculpture with a uniquely designed photovoltaic upper surface and ice generators beneath. Yes, it actually makes ice by pulling moisture out of the desert air. Mr. Verheggen sees this work as an artistic object as well as a practical solution to the problem of water scarcity. Verheggen states, “The ultimate goal is to not only to build …Sun Glacier … but to see our technology applied where it can benefit people searching for an independent water source. This is art; this is climate adaptation; this is a new business concept that can make rain for investors willing to plunge into previously unexplored edges of technological applications.”

Condenser tubes in testing

Condenser tubes in testing

Sun Glacier stands as an unprecedented work of art that is the epitome of what contemporary artists have been working on for years and especially the more recent trend of hybrid practice, social practice, relational aesthetics, and community-based art.

Verheggen: “To break off an icicle in the middle of the desert. Sounds rather bizarre but it may well be reality before too long. I am fascinated by the prospect of building a large sculpture in the hot desert that can produce icicles on its own. This project will reach and push the boundaries of what is technically and scientifically feasible at this moment in time. It will be an exciting journey of discovery for me and my team to realize this project. Is it really that strange to believe that in time we could even create a glacier in the desert?”

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