New Zealand Designer Makes Ingenious Solar-Powered Skylight That Desalinates Water For Drinking

Those living in coastal Chile’s shanty towns see as much water as they could ever need, but they can’t drink it because it’s too salty. There’s also abundant solar energy on the coast, but nothing with which to utilize the energy source.

Solar Desalination Skylight

2021 Lexus Design Award finalist Henry Glogau is creating something that makes use of these abundant, if unusable resources, with a solar-powered desalination still and lighting fixture.

In Chile, 110,000 families live in 800 shantytowns, where clean water is scarce, power comes unreliably through an electrified wasp’s nest of jerry-rigged powerlines, and windows are often boarded up to increase privacy and security, removing almost all natural light.

“I wanted to achieve a design which was sustainable, passive, and created a striking feature inside the dark settlement home,” writes Goglau, who graduated from the Royal Danish Academy with a master’s in specialized architecture for extreme conditions.

“In my development process it became apparent that I could address the lack of indoor lighting and water access by creating a hybrid skylight and solar desalination device.”

Truly killing several birds with one stone, Goglau’s salination still can purify 440 milliliters of water a day, with leftover brine being sifted into batteries made of zinc and copper where they power an LED strip for use during the night.

Solar desalination Skylight

During the day the light is powered by a small solar panel, and the whole thing is cheap to manufacture.

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Not only focused on function, the solar salination skylight is modeled in such a way as to utilize the chemical process of evaporation and condensation to create funky lighting patterns on the walls and floor as the photons move through water droplets, vapor, and undulations in the stylized shade.

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With the help of local NGOs, Goglau’s device—even before Lexus chose the winner from the six finalists—were already being installed among informal homes in the Chilean town of Antofagasta.

(WATCH the video about the innovative skylight below.)

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