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Dutch innovator sees ice in the desert

posted 11 Nov 2011, 05:04 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Nov 2011, 05:04 ]

A Dutch artist and environmental campaigner has revealed test results proving it is possible to build a solar-powered ice-making machine in the desert. Ap Verheggen says his device, half sculpture-half machine, will challenge environmental policy makers to realise that anything is possible. Stuart McDill reports.

ZOETERMEER, THE NETHERLANDS / UMMANNAQ, GREENLAND - Plans to construct a huge solar-powered ice-making machine in the desert have moved a step closer with preliminary results of a test phase, according to Dutch engineers.

The team, from refrigeration company Cofley, have proved the concept in a test environment, simulating desert air temperature and wind conditions, says project manager, Erik Hoogedorn.


"What we have here is a test room in which we mimic desert conditions. We extracted desert climate conditions from an internet database and we mimic these conditions inside this room and we want to see how the ice is formed under these conditions. For this we have an aluminium plate which we cool to minus fifteen celsius and then we start desert conditions and we see what happens."

Called the SunGlacier, it's the brainchild of artist and environmental campaigner, Ap Verheggen, who says the device will challenge policy makers.

He has already erected sculptures on the Greenland ice sheet to draw attention to climate change and, from there, he said he wants to inspire creative solutions.


"Our culture has to deal with this changing climate. I am going to make an artificial glacier in the desert to show that we can make impossible possible."

The giant, leaf-shaped installation will measure 20 meters long and 4 meters high and will be powered by 200 square metres of solar panels - enough to extract moisture from the air and freeze it, according to Cofley's chief engineer, Jan Alkemade.


"Well, at the moment we need to withdraw about a kilowatt of heat for a square meter of ice, and in the well engineered contraption that would require about half a kilowatt to move one kilowatt of cold, so to speak, and out of solar cells we got about a hundred kilowatt per square meter, so after a bit of work you can see that we need about 10 m2 for one square meter of ice."

The location of the SunGlacier is still to be decided - but wherever it may be, the team is confident it will work.

Stuart McDill, Reuters