top of page

A solar-powered lamp to transform sea water into drinking water.

One in three people in the world do not have access to clean water. This shocking statistic was released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization in 2019.

Many countries in need of drinking water are surrounded by seas, but desalination remains an expensive process both in energy and installation.

© Marie Fontaine -

Based on this observation, the New Zealander architect Henry Glogau, has created a solar-powered lamp that can transform seawater into drinking water.

Called "Solar Desalination Skylight", it is integrated into the ceiling of a house and consists of a tank with transparent walls that will receive the sea water.

"Solar Desalination Skylight" - Credit : Henry Glogau
"Solar Desalination Skylight" - Credit : Henry Glogau

The salt water is pumped through a tube, the sun will then heat it until it evaporates. It will then flow through biomimetic channels inspired by the veins of the leaves. Its evaporation within these channels allows the salt to be isolated.

Credit: Henry Glogau
Credit: Henry Glogau

The treated and desalinated water becomes easily available thanks to a small tap located on the lamp.

For the moment, this system allows to produce 440 ml of drinking water per day.

In addition, the reflection of sunlight also turns this tank into a lamp to light up a room. The LED strips that make up the lamp can be charged with energy thanks to a small solar panel optimized for salt water residue. This creates a salt battery (the brine) to provide electricity to the house overnight.

Credit: Henry Glogau
Credit: Henry Glogau

In addition to greatly improving the living conditions of many people, the lamp's aesthetics earned it the "Responsive Design" category of the Design Educate Awards. The diffused light creates a soft atmosphere that changes gradually throughout the day depending on the desalinated water collected.

The Solar Desalination Skylight, implemented and tested in the city of Antofagasta, Chile, has been able to provide low-cost solutions to the greatest number of people, helping communities living in poverty.

Credit: Henry Glogau
Credit: Henry Glogau

During the development and testing phases, the engineers took feedback from the community to improve their inventions. Together, they thought about creating similar systems using locally available plastic bottles, cans, knives and tape.

Being close to the ocean and enjoying abundant sunlight, the community is well positioned to make the most of this new kind of lamp.

This invention, both economical and eco-responsible, can hope to have a bright future ahead of it.
It remains to be hoped that this innovation will soon benefit more communities around the world.

To go further: the Lexus Design Award 2021, dedicated to inventions for the good of humanity, awarded its first prize to New Zealander architect Henry Glogau, for his solar-powered water distiller, another of his projects.

In a nutshell, it is based on the same concept of evaporating water through heat, used with the Solar Desalination Skylight, but in a large format and without providing light.

Its solar powered and portable distiller allows to transform sea water or polluted water into drinking water. The installation also provides a shaded meeting place where residents can gather.

Another low-cost circular low-tech solution that will be the talk of the town!


bottom of page