Ap Verheggen is a sculptor with a technological streak and a strong sense of urgency about climate change. His SunGlacier is a potential game changer when it comes to securing safe drinking water.
Not oil, not coal, not minerals like coltan and tantalum, but plain old water will be the most coveted natural resource in the near future. Climate change is accelerating desertification in tropical and subtropical countries, making them practically uninhabitable. Other regions are flooded by excess water from melting snow and ice combined with increasingly torrential rains that endanger the supply of potable water. The availability of safe drinking water is already a major issue in many parts of the world, with some 750 million people lacking access to it.
The situation is only going to get worse. Ap Verheggen found out how urgent the situation truly is in 2009 when he installed sculptures with GPS trackers on glaciers in Greenland. The trackers enabled him to monitor the ice melting and the ice floes’ ‘migration’ towards the ocean. Alarmingly, the trackers were gone within a matter of months.
Mr Verheggen doesn’t just use his brand of technology-infused art to create awareness about impending ecological disasters, he also works on solutions. His biggest claim to fame is the SunGlacier, a machine that harvests water from air. It is batteryless, has no moving parts and is powered by solar panels. The magic is worked by a Peltier cooler, a thermoelectric heat pump normally used in the computer industry to cool chips to well below ambient temperatures. In the SunGlacier it turns vaporised water molecules into condensation.