SunGlacier & Ministry of Defense

When art and innovation meet 

Although there is more and more awareness of the negative effects that current consumption and production patterns have on our planet’s climate and fragile ecosystem, Ap Verheggen wanted to approach this problem with a positive attitude. As a sculptor, Ap Verheggen has always been highly fascinated by nature and he would travel the world to link his art projects with nature. During one of his travels in the north polar region, he was confronted with melting icecaps and the dramatic consequences for the local Inuit population. Refusing to see the ever-increasing heat of the sun solely as a threat, Ap Verheggen came up with a solution that would use sunlight to create water: solar-powered condensation.  

From statement to action

When, ten years ago, Ap Verheggen announced his plans to create a 200 square meter glacier in a desert, the SunGlacier, it was thought of as more of a statement that could inspire hope and innovation. At the time, Ap Verheggen told the Dutch newspaper Trouw: “Innovation starts with creativity and I leave it up to others to think about other potential uses of this glacier.” Little did he know that it turned out to be he himself who would take on innovative projects following that initial spark of creativity. The SunGlacier itself was never realised, but the SunGlacier project took off in a different direction and soon he created the first ever off-grid solar-powered potable water production machine.

Getting the ideas out there 

SunGlacier is growing. In the past ten years, the different prototypes and initiatives have been covered worldwide by renowned media outlets such as Reuters and The New York Times. Ap Verheggen has spoken with important figures, including the former Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, about his brainchild. SunGlacier will also showcase an impressive unit at the 2020 World Exposition in Dubai, likely postponed to 2021, that will produce about 500 litres of fresh water per day from the surrounding desert air.

The ever growing waterfall

This month, the SunGlacier project announced their latest portable sized, off-grid application with the Droppler20 prototype. This design autonomously produces up to 30 litres of clean water per day and its compactness and sturdiness make it suitable for transportation. When we asked Ap Verheggen to explain how the innovative and patented SunGlacier technology works, he spoke about the growing waterfall principle: “We create an ice-cold waterfall in which we then pump air. The water vapour condenses and the waterfall thus grows, as it were, during its fall. This is the unique growing waterfall principle which we got patented.”

Powered by DCHI and Defense

As an artist, Ap Verheggen looked externally for help that could help him realise his dreams. He also worked together with his friend, Peter van Geloven, who possesses more of the technical expertise that was required to make the project happen. SunGlacier also got support from DCHI and the Dutch Ministry of Defence. Both have supported the development of the Droppler20 and other prototypes as the SunGlacier technology has the potential to support humanitarian operations as well as military bases in desert-like conditions, such as in Mali. The latest Droppler20 was tested in a facility provided by the Ministry of Defence.

Dreaming to prevent nightmares

The objective for the Droppler20 is to provide households with enough clean and potable water. However, Ap Verheggen is a big dreamer as he hopes to eventually provide entire villages with water and perhaps, at one point, to construct an entire Droppler Dome in the hot desert. Looking back ten years, Ap Verheggen has already succeeded in probably the most important thing of all: he has showed us that dreams can lead to successful innovation and the prevention or mitigation of nightmare scenarios.

Innovation steps towards impact


How can we create water in the desert?

How can we fight climate change through a positive perspective rather than a negative perspective?


Different prototypes

“Creativity led to innovation and together with partner Peter van Geloven, and backed by institutions such as the Ministry of Defence and the Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation SunGlacier created many different prototypes, including the latest Droppler20.”


Showcase innovative properties

“SunGlacier has been covered worldwide by renowned media outlets such as Reuters and The New York Times. SunGlacier will also showcase its innovative properties at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai (postponed to 2021).”


Construct an entire Dome in a hot desert

“Ap Verheggen, Artist & Director of Communication at SunGlacier is a big dreamer as he hopes to eventually provide entire villages with water and perhaps, at one point, to construct an entire Droppler Dome in a hot desert.”