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Designing and automating an outdoor sky monitoring device

Master’s Thesis Opportunity

(Physics, Applied Physics and Engineering)

The group:
Our group develops photonic materials systems that enable new applications and enhanced performance for light-energy conversion. Guided by computational optical and device modelling, we develop novel designs and architectures that we bring to reality through state-of-the-art nanotechnology. Our research finds application in photovoltaic (solar cell) power plants, solar-to-fuel devices and in novel nanodevices.

Designing and automating an outdoor sky monitoring device

How can we harness energy out of a solar cell efficiently? The power output of a cell depends on the wavelength and the angle of the light, i.e., on the spectro-angular irradiance. The irradiance changes with geographical location, surroundings, cloud coverage, and time of the year and day. If we want to improve the reliability of optimisations and economic estimates for a solar cell, realistic and location-specific irradiance measurements are required. A bifacial solar cell (Fig. 1) is designed to accept light from both faces, i.e., front and rear, thus maximizing the acceptance angle. This means that to optimise it, 360o mapping of the spectro-angular irradiance is needed. For this, we have developed a set-up (Fig. 2) [1] to measure spectro-angular irradiance for a given location. The set-up allows a fibre that is coupled to a spectrometer to move freely along the  and  direction, thus enabling to capture the spectral data from any direction. Nevertheless, at the current stage, it is not suitable for prolonged measurements under changing weather conditions.

This project offers a unique opportunity at the intersection of engineering, optics, and solar energy. For reliable calculations, the irradiance data needs to be collected for long time-period, to account for varying cloud coverage and season. However, our current set-up is not suitable for rainy and windy weather and has to be controlled manually, thus making it impractical for prolonged measurements. Hence, the entire set-up needs to be automated and potentially made weatherproof. The outcome of this project can possibly be converted into a conference proceedings or peer-reviewed journal publication.

Shweta Pal (
Principal Investigator: Rebecca Saive (

[1] S. Pal and R. Saive, "Experimental Study of the Spectral and Angular Solar Irradiance," in PVSC IEEE proceedings 46th, Chicago, USA, 2019.