53. Real Ice

Company: Real Ice

Founder: Cian Sherwin

Website: https://www.realice.eco

Real Ice


About Real Ice

Founded in 2021, Real Ice is an Arctic ecosystem restoration start-up. Our mission is to prove our technology can be used to restore Arctic Sea ice to 1980s levels, preserving a key planetary cooling system. Think of it like the Amazon reforestation efforts but we are encouraging Arctic Sea ice growth rather than planting new trees in the rainforest.

Through cutting-edge technology, building on research from our collaborators at Arizona State University and the University of Washington, we aim to boost albedo and create a cooling effect in the region. By encouraging natural ice growth processes in our design, we accelerate Arctic Sea ice generation during the winter months, resulting in fewer areas of the Arctic melting completely in the summer. To do this, we flood the snow layer on top of the sea ice with seawater at the beginning of winter. This creates an extra layer of sea ice and removes the insulating snow layer, allowing the ice to grow below the water. At the end of winter, we would return and add a snow layer to insulate the sea ice through the summer so that it lasts longer through the warmer months, all while using renewable energy sources.

To overcome the challenge of excess sea ice melt, we want to demonstrate that a method for “Ice thickening” backed by scientific research would help nature continue to create enough sea ice during the winter so that the sea ice extent during the summer months can be stabilised. Without the ice, the Arctic’s ability to reflect heat (solar radiation) to space is lost. Instead of reflecting this heat, it becomes a giant heat absorber for our planet.

In 2023, we ventured to Nome, Alaska, to test our first iteration of a battery-powered pump. In January 2024, our team travelled to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, where, with our collaborators, we tested our approach. On this recent expedition, we deployed the world’s first hydrogen-powered pump (developed by the Real Ice team) in Arctic conditions. This was a successful expedition, and we demonstrated that the refreezing approach could have the potential to be scaled.

In 2024, we are moving on to the next phase of our engineering roadmap, which includes collaborating with manufacturers to develop underwater drones for pumping that are powered by green hydrogen. In the future, we envision a scalable re-icing concept featuring a state-of-the-art, high-autonomy, adaptable and modular marine drone system powered by renewable energy. This innovative system is designed to navigate beneath the ice, where it accelerates natural processes by thickening extensive areas of sea ice. By bolstering sea ice resilience, even in the face of rising Arctic temperatures, our technology aims to contribute significantly to preserving the Arctic ecosystem.


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