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Dr. Ekaterina Bocharova

Dr. Ekaterina Bocharova Innovators Innovations thyssenkrupp Steel Europe

Dr. Ekaterina Bocharova: From simple jewelry to multiphase steel

For a long time she was interested in fine jewelry, and she also flirted with the idea of becoming a jeweler. But while she has stayed loyal to metal in the wider sense, today her thoughts revolve around high-strength steels. Dr. Ekaterina Bocharova has been a researcher with thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG for eight years. “Steel is much more versatile than jewelry metals, which can scarcely be altered at all,” explains the doctor of metallurgy. Now Ekaterina Bocharova spends her work time tweaking different parameters to make steel stronger. This is particularly important for automotive parts like side beams or B-pillar reinforcements that have to withstand heavy loads in a collision. When a car crashes into an obstacle the passenger cell needs to remain as stable as possible. The problem is that while the steels need to be strong they also have to be capable of being formed into the required part shapes as easily as possible.

Steel – in ever new varieties

Dr. Bocharova is committed to the challenge of reconciling these two conflicting requirements. The answer comes in the form of multi-phase steels: They consist of a soft and a hard phase. That is: Individual “grains” in the steel are soft, making it easy to shape, while others are hard, giving the metal the required strength. “My work involves varying the chemical composition of the steel, optimizing its properties by adding different alloying elements, and adapting production conditions accordingly – to develop ever better steels,” says the project manager.

From the idea to the patent

When she has devised a new type of steel, her colleagues produce it in the pilot production in Dortmund, initially on the scale of a hundred kilograms, and test various properties of the steel. The results land back on her desk. What is the tensile strength of the steel like? What about its yield strength? If Dr. Bocharova is satisfied with the results, the steel makes the leap into 250-ton production. “I’m there at almost every step in production to take samples and examine the steel,” she says. In this she works closely with colleagues from applications, production and sales – teamwork is key to success. Five patents have already come about this way as a result of these eight years of work and Dr. Ekaterina Bocharova is involved in another two patents in the applications department.

And after work?

So how big a role does steel play in the spare time of Ekaterina Bocharova, who grew up in Moscow and came to Germany while she was studying metallurgy? “I spend my free time with my husband and our daughter,” she says glancing at the photo on her desk. She has also adapted her work life to her family situation: “Since the birth of our daughter I’ve only been working 30 hours a week. So I have enough time to pick her up from the company kindergarten” says Ekaterina, delighted at this opportunity of organizing her life.

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