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Mariya E. Ivanova

Mariya E. Ivanova is a chemical engineer and holds a PhD degree in Materials Science (UCTM Sofia 2008). After receiving her PhD, she began working as a research scientist at IEK-1 and has since been actively involved in the research and development of ceramic materials for energy technology. Since 2018 she leads the activities in the field of Proton Conducting Ceramic Fuel and Electrolysis Cells in the Institute of Energy and Climate Research IEK-1 of Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany. Member of the network “Women in Green Hydrogen”.

Her research focus is on the development of proton conducting ceramic materials and electrochemical devices for demonstration and validation of various H2 related technologies, e.g., generation, extraction, purification and compression of   H2. Current projects in her group are the BMBF/HGF funded Innovation Pool Project “Solar Hydrogen: highly pure and compressed“ and the EU-EIC-Pathfinder Projekt “Nano-Engineered Co-Ionic Ceramic Reactors for CO2/H2O Electroconversion to Light Olefins - ECOLEFINS“. Dr. Ivanova ist involved also in the management of MTET-Topic 3.


What are you currently working on?

Mariya E. Ivanova: My work encompasses several aspects and is quite multi-faceted, considering the fact that ceramic proton conductors have emerged in recent years as a very promising technology. In this context, the focus of my research is on unlocking their potential as a key technological solution and demonstrating their multiple advantages over other well-established technologies in a number of end user applications.

In this context, my group develops electrochemical devices based on ceramic proton conductors for various applications of great importance for the energy transition, the national and EU goals of carbon neutrality. Examples for such applications are: generation of highly pure H2 by means of steam electrolysis; H2 extraction and purification from natural gas blends coupled with pre-compression to provide extremely pure H2 for PEM compression up to 1300 bar; H2 utilization as a feedstock for synthesis of energy carriers (e.g., ammonia), green chemicals (e.g., olefins, aromatics) and synthetic fuels, etc.

In order to meet the requirements of this multitude of applications, there are certain functional criteria – the so-called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – that our materials and devices have to fulfil. By means of an atomic-to-macro-scale approach, i.e. definition of new materials, their processing as layers and characterization in cells, we design the properties of materials, layers and interfaces, which our cells consist of, in such a way that as a final goal the cells deliver stable and reproducible KPIs.

The development of such electrochemical devices is a complex, multidisciplinary subject that requires knowledge in solid state chemistry, material science, processing technology and engineering. This not only makes the work very challenging and exciting, but also makes every successful step a very fulfilling and rewarding experience.

What is your personal motivation?

Mariya E. Ivanova: I believe in the future with hydrogen as a global energy carrier that will be the leading element in building a sustainable, circular and carbon neutral economy. I am certain that all H2 related technologies are of utmost importance in realizing this global transition, independently on their maturity level. While the more mature technologies have the potential to realize large capacities and leverage large scale technological penetration in various social-economic sectors, the less advanced technologies, such as the technology based on ceramic proton conductors, are essentially the innovation carriers that have the potential to generate breakthrough knowledge. Moreover, such technologies are the pathfinders for new applications in green chemistry, in H2 transport and storage, etc., as well as the definers of new end-user cases that push application boundaries beyond the current state of the art. Through our work as researchers, we have the chance to create innovation and impact, to be the future´s designers.

What kind of challenges are you facing in the near future?

Mariya E. Ivanova: With the start of the new European Pathfinder project ECOLEFINS we are going to face multiple challenges at the level of fundamental science in the fields of material processing, heterogeneous catalysis, transport mechanisms, etc., but also regarding the technical realization and proof of the concept in petrochemical industrial operation. The project concept is of a very challenging nature itself - it will push the existing boundaries of H2O/CO2 co-electrolysis for olefins synthesis towards fundamentally new material properties and operation in unusual temperature ranges. The successful realization of this highly challenging idea will define a novel pathway for the synthesis of chemicals with industrial implication.

If you could make a wish for something for your research, what would you wish for?

Mariya E. Ivanonva: My wish would be that we are successful in achieving our long-term technical goals and that we approach the next stage of the challenge with a lot of inspiration and perseverance. Specifically, it is about achieving reproducible large-area cells with optimized properties and processing that will later be operated in PCC stacks and systems under various application conditions.

Where do you see your discipline in 5-10 years?

Mariya E. Ivanonva: Ceramic proton conductors will be the core element of a well-established technology for energy conversion and storage, with a proven potential for multiple end user applications. This will define new business opportunities that will have an impact at various levels. From a niche technology, it will become a leading key solution for highly pure H2 at competitive cost.

ORCID: 0000-0003-1692-9909