In the tests she conducted as part of her thesis, one central question was: At what voltage level and after which time does a breakdown or flashover occur, i.e. at what point does the insulating system in the switchgear become conductive, losing its insulating capabilities? By experimenting with various voltage stress durations, Maria observed the differences between the application of AC and DC voltage to the insulating system. And direct current is patient:
Only with long-term testing was Maria able to experimentally prove that the electrical field in DC GIS is changing: “Compared to AC GIS, the DC GIS gas-solid insulating system is exposed to an electrostatic field at the time of energization, followed by a field transition to an electric flow field that is strongly influenced by several factors, such as the materials used and their temperature.”
When, after finishing her PhD, Maria led the development of the DC GIS at Siemens Energy, these were important insights: While the DC GIS is based on the company's proven AC GIS technology, a new insulator needed to be developed and tested that could handle these DC-specific aspects. And with her extensive education and experience in high-voltage engineering from the university, she was also able to conduct several tests of the DC GIS and if needed also work hands-on with the equipment – sometimes to the surprise of her colleagues.
When Maria talks about the challenges that come with working in male-dominated areas, it goes from work clothes, with sizes primarily geared to men, to the fact that many colleagues first question a young female engineer’s abilities – resulting in the feeling of having to prove oneself over and over again. By confidently focusing on her own technical skills and challenging herself and others to keep developing them, Maria helps overcome gender stereotypes and is a role model for other young engineers, showing them just how exciting the field can be and increasing their likelihood of becoming innovators themselves.