Spend a few days wandering around the desert with no water, sunscreen, or internet access, and you’re bound to start going a little bit crazy. Mirages will play tricks on your eyes and you’ll see impossible sights glimmering on the horizon, like a gigantic leaf made out of ice.
Ice in the desert — how ridiculous!
Well, believe it or not, it’s not nearly as impossible as you might think. Artist Ap Verheggen hopes to bring the icy world of the arctic into the middle of the desert with his incredibly unorthodox SunGlacier.
Alright, let’s answer the obvious question first: How on Earth does Verheggen plan to build a giant ice sculpture in the desert? Well, the plan is actually quite brilliant — the cause of all that heat is also the solution for creating so much ice! The top of the leaf-shaped structure would be lined with solar panels, which would suck up energy from the intense sunlight to power the cooling devices on the bottom of the leaf.
Tucked into the relatively cool shade, the cooling devices would collect moisture from the surrounding air (as it turns out, the Sahara Desert has approximately the same humidity as the air in the Netherlands). The cooling devices would then freeze the water to create an ever-growing layer of ice.
It might sound impractical, but Verheggen actually gave the whole system a test drive and it worked beautifully! He simulated desert conditions in a shipping container and the contraption managed to accumulate a whopping 10 centimeters of ice. Apparently, Verheggen really knows his stuff, but is that really surprising considering that he is the Cultural Ambassador for UNESCO-IHE, the water training institute of the United Nations?
Obviously, this type of technology can have a huge impact on the region. Not only would it be an absolutely beautiful piece of aquatic architecture (it’s an ice sculpture in the desert, for crying out loud!), but it would also make it easier for locals to get access to water. The Middle East and cities around the Sahara Desert are notorious for suffering from water shortages, so a few of Verheggen’s SunGlaciers could have a dramatic impact on the locals’ quality of life.
Naturally, I’m mostly interested in the artistic value of the SunGlacier. With these artistic renderings, Verheggen demonstrated just how far a little bit of creative imagination can take you. There’s no reason why aquascaping fans here in the States shouldn’t be able to borrow Verheggen’s idea and create stunning frozen aquascapes at any time of the year.
Just a few days ago I was excited to write about the frozen snow cone huts, which could only exist in the frigid winter climates of Canada. Thanks to Verheggen’s brilliant idea, we can free ourselves from the thermometer and create ice sculptures wherever and whenever we want!
I’d love to see this idea take hold in the sunnier parts of America like Florida, Texas, and California. Can you imagine how cool it would be to sunbathe in 95 degree weather, and then take a break from the heat under the frosty shade of a gigantic, solar-powered frozen leaf? It sounds like something out of a science fiction book!
What do you think? If you had a chance to get your hands on Verheggen’s unique technology, what type of frigid aquatic architecture would you want to build?