National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Dr. Sheila Bailey

Photovoltaics and Life at NASA

Monday June 2, 2008 – Panera Bread – North Olmsted, OH


We had our evening meeting with Dr. Sheila Bailey at Panera Bread on Monday June 2. Over dinner, we were able to learn about Dr. Bailey’s many travels, and about how her personal life fit in with her academic pursuits and scientific career. She emphasized to us the importance of staying in school to obtain higher degrees after college, and of making sure that the career path we choose is something that we truly enjoy.


After dinner, she gave a PowerPoint presentation that gave us an in-depth overview of the type of work done in her lab on Photovoltaics, and of the different types of Photovoltaic research that is going on across the world. The different types of photovoltaic research, some of which have been or are currently conducted in her lab are polycrystalline thin film, quantum dots, single crystal silicon, concentrator, multi-junction cell, organic cell, and dye-sensitized cell photovoltaics. One of the interesting things she pointed out to us about photovoltaics is that those made for terrestrial use try to minimize the cost per watt to make them competitive with fossil fuels, and that those made for space use try to increase watts per kilogram because the weight of the device is what determines the bulk of the cost.

Dr. Bailey told us that the largest photovoltaic powered system is the space station. She showed us pictures of the space station and the arrays of photovoltaics that are attached to it. In the picture she pointed out the thin plastic sheets that have leads on them that are used to string together the photovoltaic cells, and she brought in a roll of that special plastic for us to see. She also brought in a jar of the type of sand used as the feedstock for silicon extraction, and a rock of solid silicon that is the end product of that extraction. Dr. Bailey’s talk was an excellent way to start off the evening lectures portion of our NASA Academy experience. She was a very lively and enthusiastic speaker who kept us engaged throughout the entire evening, and we learned a great amount of valuable information about NASA and photovoltaics from her