Does the image of cool, cascading waterfalls flowing in a dry desert sound like an unimaginable mirage? Artist and UNESCO-IHE Cultural Ambassador Ap Verheggen says that thanks to recent technological developments, that desert oasis may be closer to reality than we think. A conceptual art project, Desert Cascades explores how solar energy could power an autonomous waterfall in one of earth’s most uninhabitable environments.

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Ap Verheggen, Desert Cascades, UNESCO-IHE, solar energy, solar panels, desert, sunglacier, sun-powered waterfall, solar technology

Working with the same set of condensation principles used on SunGlacier, an ice-producing solar leaf, Desert Cascades aims to create an actual working waterfall in an arid environment. Powered by solar panels, the self-sufficient cube will collect and turn water vapor into a steady flow of cool water. Described as a conceptual art project, a sun-powered waterfall is well within reach at the rate that solar technology is currently progressing, says Verheggen.

“An art project like the Cascades can inspire people and science to look beyond known horizons and become a type of generator for new possibilities,” he said. “For us, it’s essential to explore outside of conventional technology to develop ideas like how much water we can get out of the air with only solar as [the] power generator.”

Though Desert Cascades is still rooted in theory at this point, Verheggen says that creativity is key for experiments such as these. He likens his approach to how science fiction, such as the Star Wars films, inspired many of the technological innovations we enjoy today. By stretching the confines of reality with conceptual experiments, Verheggen hopes to inspire bold new applications for solar energy in the future.

+ SunGlacier