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Hardware Design for Dust Soiling on Solar Panels in West Africa


IAP and Spring


MAS: Media Arts and Sciences

Faculty Supervisor:

Danielle Wood

Faculty email:


Apply by:

January 5th, 2021


Email Stewart Isaacs (sisaacs@mit.edu) with your resume and a brief description of your interests

Project Description

In West Africa, the annual Harmattan season lasting from the end of November until the middle of March is marked by an atmosphere laden with Saharan dust. This dust then occludes sunlight and collects on surfaces, thereby reducing the effectiveness of photovoltaic (PV) panels in the region. This project, done in collaboration with NASA JPL, seeks to quantify the impact of dust and other aerosols on solar energy production in West Africa. The student researcher will contribute to the project by designing and implementing a hardware system that measures the effects of dust soiling. The student is anticipated to conduct a literature review of dust soiling measurement techniques, refine sensor and system requirements, compare and select from Internet of Things (IoT) platforms and identify key hardware and sensors before assembling the components. The outcome of this project will be a designed hardware system which will be re-created and deployed with collaborators in Accra, Ghana for data collection. This UROP offers considerable hands-on experience in hardware system design with some potential for future travel, pandemic permitting.


Motivated self-starter with prior electronic project experience using Arduino or Raspberry PI, in addition to coursework in sensors, electronics and circuits. Demonstrated interest in the intersection of engineering, energy and development will be considered, but not required.