Henry Glogau Studio Henry Glogau Portable Solar Distiller

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Henry Glogau

Access to clean water is one of the most prevalent challenges which we face today. By the year 2040, UNICHEF predicts around 1/3 of the world’s population will face severe water scarcity. Access to the latest high-tech systems to combat freshwater production and purification is limited to the privileged few, with many communities still facing the daily challenges of waterborne diseases and basic resource access.

The Portable Solar Distiller was designed with adaptability and accessibility at its heart. The low tech and autonomous solution, utilises the power of the natural environment by harnessing sunlight to distil polluted and sea water, while also providing a rainwater capture system.

A key focus of the design is merging local resource production with community architecture, providing freshwater as well as a shaded community gathering place. The purpose of thinking more holistically about the design, was to encourage people to engage with resource production in an approachable and understandable way.

The design is a lightweight, versatile structure which is configurable in different ways and materials. A distributed design approach provides the user with a step-by-step guide to create their own system, while encouraging the user to hack and adapt the design to best suit their needs and environmental conditions. The open-source ambition of the design is to provide anyone in the world the recipe to create their own Portable Solar Distiller, with their own local resources.

Through an established collaboration with a Chilean NGO called TECHO, the initial project was introduced to a local informal settlement community called Nueva Esperanza (New Hope), in Mejillones, Chile. Nueva Esperanza is a coastal community which can only access fresh water once a week via a water truck drop off, which is often unreliable, unsafe, and expensive. Solar desalination and SODIS (Solar water disinfection), became an apparent opportunity when considering the communities abundant access to seawater and all year-round sunlight. This passive and low-tech process became an alternative option for producing a clean and safe water source. Depending on the solar intensity, the design can produce between 12 – 18 litres of purified water over a 12-hour period.

Throughout the time spent in Nueva Esperanza, the community became an intrinsic part of the co-creation of the Portable Solar Distiller design. Their local knowledge and expertise allowed for the idea to evolve into a design which could be made out of materials found readily available such as; plastic tarps, plastic bottles, and timber/bamboo elements. Utilising waste materials and local resources, highlights the circular potential and ingenuity of the design. When considering the inevitable future challenges of resource scarcity, this idea showcases the possibilities of a low-tech and autonomous design which works in symbiosis with its eco-system.