Maria Kharitonova: Engineering under extreme conditions
Engineering | People at thyssenkrupp | thyssenkrupp worldwide | They research electromobility, construct huge industrial plants, develop software that enables production plants to communicate with each other, and even work in the most remote places in the world: engineers ensure progress - and hardly any job is as multifaceted as theirs. During the official "Engineers Week" we focus on their pioneering spirit and show the many different fields in which our engineers work. Maria Kharitonova is an HVAC engineer (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) at thyssenkrupp. She tells us why she chose engineering as a profession and why she still pursues it with great passion today.
For Maria Kharitonova, an engineer is someone who transforms ideas into something real – something you can touch and that has a purpose and function. “What I appreciate most of all is the combination of technical expertise with the creativity that is closely interwoven with engineering,” the HVAC engineer at thyssenkrupp tells us.
Turning ideas into reality
The technical ideas or answers to a problem are ultimately the result of knowledge and creativity. The difference to an artist’s work is that engineers have to consider the physical and technical conditions: “Basically everything we develop is our creative vision of a possible solution, backed up by technical know-how and expertise. This makes the engineering profession particularly interesting for me and I can’t imagine that I could ever get bored with my job”.
Developing heated surfaces that can withstand the Siberian winter
As a supply engineer for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, the development of heated floors is a special challenge for Maria Kharitonova because these floors are not laid anywhere, but in open production facilities in Siberia. For heating technology, this sometimes means having to cope with winter temperatures of – as a rule – as low as minus 30-50 degrees Celsius. In order to heat the freestanding floors of open production facilities, water is of course no longer an appropriate heating medium in this extreme cold.
“In heating systems, an anti-freezing heat-transfer agent is used, which is either specially prepared at the production site, or it can be a heat-transfer, which in turn is heated by utilizing thermal energy received during the operation of the plant,,” explains Kharitonova. In a cold and snowy region such as Siberia, this method is indispensable for heating the ground and floors of production plants and cannot be replaced by conventional heating agents to keep surfaces free of snow and frost.
What would happen without the sophisticated heating system? Parts of the production plant would be inaccessible or no longer operable – either because they were frozen solid or because they were under a large mass of snow. Her work as a HVAC engineer is an important part of the daily operations on Siberian production plants, enabling local staff to ensure the safety and maintenance of the plant.
Maria Kharitonova sums up the process of heating planning for us: “At first glance, this process looks quite simple. In the floor overlap, pipes with a coolant are laid in a specific direction and sequence. Then the pipelines are insulated with a coating: basically, the floor area is already heated. But behind all this is the enormously precise and detailed work of the developers and installers”.
As a HVAC engineer Kharitonova performs calculations and produces detailed drawings so that the HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) performs the desired functions. To do this, she needs to know and take into account every environmental parameter that is important for maintaining and keeping the systems of the production plant running.
Engineering: Technology, Creativity & Responsibility
“If I may speak about my profession in general, I believe that it is more of a vocation than a profession, because you have a lot of responsibility and have to work precisely at all times. Without a certain amount of dedication, this is not possible. In industrial buildings, maintaining smooth operations and prohibiting emergency situations depends on my work as a HVAC engineer and the dedicated team of engineers and coworkers around me”.
For Maria Kharitonova, engineering is a field of intellectual activity in which technical expertise is combined with creativity. However, her work as an engineer is not an isolated activity for the young engineer but requires competent teamwork: “Engineering is a process in which a team of engineers creatively develops a technical solution to a specific problem.”