Artist Ap Verheggen has hatched a plan in cooperation with Cofely Refrigeration to create a solar-powered leaf-shaped structure that uses condensation principles to create ice in the Sahara desert. If this sounds too good to be true, read on - it turns out that Cofely and Verheggen, who is also the Cultural Ambassador for UNESCO-IHE (the water training institute of the UN) have simulated desert conditions in a shipping container to test the product's theory, and have already produced 10 cm of ice.
So how does this work? The 200 m2 elm-leaf shaped structure has a PV cell coated underbelly, which powers cooling condensers that in turn convert humidity from the desert air into ice. Verheggen told the Engineer that although the Sahara desert may not seem to have sufficient humidity to create optimum ice-making conditions, it turns out that tests show that the air in Egypt has the same levels of humidity as the Netherlands. But before they trek off to the Sahara to create their glacier, the designers are working in a simulated environment back home.
By heating the shipping container and running a humidifier, Cofely and Verheggen have reproduced the desert’s unique climatic conditions. A fan, which is designed to simulates fierce desert winds, is pointed at the ice that collects on a aluminum shield of sorts. As the ice grows from the condensation, water collects at the base.
Given that the Middle East region is facing chronic water shortages, this is quite possibly one of the most important projects in the running, in close second perhaps only to the 500 MW Moroccan solar power plant that is slated to break ground next year as part of the Desertec initiative.
Via The Engineer