Innovative skylight uses solar energy to desalinate water for drinking

What if the sun could purify our water? What if it didn’t require human intervention or energy? What if this low-cost solution could empower coastal regions with an abundance of saline water but minimal access to drinking water? Designer Henry Glogau’s Solar Desalination Skylight knocks multiple proverbial birds with one stone. It serves as a no-cost lighting solution for low-income households, while also using the sun to desalinate drinking water.

The Solar Desalination Skylight is a finalist of the LEXUS DESIGN AWARD 2021. Currently in their 9th year, the Lexus Design Awards are on a mission to ideate and innovate for a better future for humanity as well as for the planet. With their underlying theme of “Designing for a Better Tomorrow”, the awards program looks at solutions that have a uniquely positive impact on society, humanity, and in the process, to reward a new generation of designers for their impactful ideas. The Lexus Design Award’s core objective has always been to foster great ideas and great talent. Creating the perfect environment for a design to grow, LEXUS helps engineer ideas into real, impactful solutions. Apart from accelerating, developing, and promoting design projects, the Lexus Design Award helps kickstart design careers too, with exclusive mentorships from international design stalwarts like Joe Doucet, Mariam Kamara, Sabine Marcelis and Sputniko!, as well as funding for prototypes (up to 3 million Japanese Yen or $25,000 per project) and the opportunity to have your work judged by the biggest figures in design in the final Grand Prix competition. This year’s judges include Paola Antonelli (Senior Curator at MoMA), Dong Gong (Founder and Principal Designer at Vector Architects), Greg Lynn (Architect and CEO at Piaggio Fast Forward), and Simon Humphries (Head of Toyota and Lexus Global Design).

Needless to say, the Solar Desalination Skylight’s purpose aligns perfectly with the awards’ theme of Designing for a better tomorrow. The design uses free and abundant solar energy and seawater to create a diffused light as well as clean, potable freshwater. The residual brine in the purification process is further used as chemical energy to power the diffused light after nightfall. The result is a design that’s cheap, impactful, and makes brilliant use of the resources at its disposal. Seawater is fed through a pipe into the chandelier-shaped skylight. Aside from illuminating interiors, the design uses energy from the sun to distill the salty seawater, which is accessible through a tap at the very base of the skylight. At night, the residual saltwater is used to generate an electrical charge which powers the light, creating a closed-loop that uses abundant resources to their maximum extent to benefit humanity.

The Solar Desalination Skylight is one of the six finalists of the LEXUS DESIGN AWARD 2021. Stay tuned as we feature all the finalist designs following the Grand Prix Winner Announcement here on Yanko Design!

Designer: Henry Glogau

Click Here to See All Six Lexus Design Awards Finalists!

A holistic approach to providing coastal informal settlements with water, energy and natural light. The design utilizes abundant solar energy and seawater to create a Solar Desalination Skylight. It emits a natural diffused light, produces drinking water, and utilizes leftover salt brine for energy creation.

Testing was done within an informal settlement home over a one-month long expedition to Antofagasta, Chile. Over a 12- hour period the prototype could produce 540 ml of purified water, with a reduction of salinity levels from 36,000ppm (parts per million) down to 20ppm.

Salt brine waste from the evaporation process is further used to create a source of energy through a reaction when placed in storage tubes holding copper and zinc. These 12 salt batteries provided 9.53 volts, powering a LED light strip during the night and charged by a mini solar panel during the day.

As well as the functional performance, the desalinated water adds a morphing dappled effect that changes mood throughout the day, creating a soft ambiance for the living room space where family activities take place.

Kiran Fernandes

Kiran is your friendly neighbourhood tech enthusiast who's passionate about all kinds of tech, goes crazy over 4G and 5G networks, and has recently sparked an interest in sci-fi and cosmology.

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