Pleased to meet: Anca Anastasopol

22-06-2021 | P2Chemicals

KEY EXPERT ELECTROCHEMICAL ENGINEERING

Pleased to meet: Anca AnastasopolIn this series we put the spotlight on the VoltaChem team members and get to know them more in-depth. We explore their role, background, expertise, motivations, ambition, and more. In this edition: Anca Anastasopol, scientist electrochemical engineering and project manager at the Power-2-Chemicals program line at VoltaChem.

Anca Anastasopol obtained her BSc in Applied Science (Chemistry) from Ovidius University in Constanța, Romania in 2007. After having been an Erasmus exchange student at TU Delft she obtained a Huygens scholarship for the MSc study in Nanoscience taught at TU Delft and Leiden University, where she graduated in 2009. She continued at TU Delft with PhD research on hydrogen storage in magnesium-based nanomaterials and obtained her doctorate in 2014. After a stint as a technical consultant in Transaction Security at UL company (Leiden), she became a research scientist at TNO Sustainable Process and Energy Systems in 2015. Since 2018 she is a key expert in electrochemical engineering at VoltaChem.

What does your job at VoltaChem involve?

I started my journey with VoltaChem in the laboratory, doing experiments in electrochemistry. As the team grew and the portfolio expanded, my role shifted towards coordinating projects from a technical perspective. The focus of my work in VoltaChem has always been on electrochemical reduction of CO2. I helped to develop most of the VoltaChem projects in this topic, which we have now merged into a coherent program on Integrated CO2 Capture and Conversion as one of the VoltaChem Flagship Programs. We develop shared research on how to integrate CO2 capture with CO2 electrolysis and downstream processing. We want to make CO2 a future resource, focusing on the gaps in knowledge and the opportunities to add value to the market. 

There are so many markets, so many CO2 waste streams. What is your approach?

First of all, I want to make clear that we are not just in the lab inventing stuff all by ourselves. We operate in a complex network of companies, universities, and other research institutes, both at national as well as international level. So the technology we develop stems from the needs of our partners and collaborators. We put a lot of effort in tailoring our process in such a way that it is of relevance to specific companies and to certain types of products. We are currently optimizing the reaction for the first CO2-based product and preparing for the first demonstration project using a concentrated, relatively pure CO2 stream. It will enable us to show the viability of our integration concept. But this is only the first step! Once we have enough experience and confidence in the process, we will expand towards less pure flue gases, with lower CO2 concentrations. 

How about scale? Power plants and blast furnaces have massive CO2 emissions. Will it get to such a scale?

I know there are critics who doubt that electrochemical systems will provide an economy of scale like that of traditional chemical process technology. I think it's just a matter of time, although to be honest the TRL's are still too low to make any solid predictions. Furthermore, I strongly feel that we should not only focus on traditional large-scale applications and instead develop technologies that are suitable beyond the current fossil era. Thus, we can embrace the peculiarities and advantages of electrolysis. It displays fairly mild conditions with respect to temperature and pressure. And it allows you to have smaller, delocalized plants and respond to various flexibility scenarios. Moreover, I imagine electrolysis to be an important technology in a post energy transition era . 

Do you have a personal ambition in the work you do?

Sure! But my ambition goes beyond CO2! While I understand that currently CO2 utilization is an important driver for technology development, I believe in electrochemistry as a technology for the future in a far broader sense, contributing to a circular, sustainable chemical industry in many ways. Of course, electrochemistry is not the answer to everything, there will always be processes that cannot be electrified. But even then there might be steps along the way where electrochemistry can be of good use. And at TNO we are in the best position to demonstrate this potential and to put it on the agenda of industry. 

You make it sound as if electrochemistry is in your blood…

That might seem the case but well, you know how life is. Hardly any high school student will have a distinct idea about his or her career. You make small steps that will lead you in a certain direction and for me that turned out to be science and electrochemistry. Each step I took was motivating enough to continue on the same path - maybe with the exception of my first job in IT which was a bit of a side track and an adventure. But I kept on looking for jobs in research and I have to say that it was good to be back in science when I was hired by TNO. So my dream would be to establish VoltaChem and TNO as the go-to place for developing novel electrochemistry. We can bring ideas to maturity levels that demonstrate market opportunities. Not only in our own labs but also by using our extensive network of universities, research institutes and companies.

You have been in the Netherlands since your MSc education. Have you ever considered going back to Romania?

Well, working at TNO is really 'something else'. I am working with people that give their everything and are working to realize their dreams and make an impact. They put every effort, every bit of themselves in making things happen. That is incredibly inspiring and motivating and for me it is quite a privilege to work here. When I came to the Netherlands it struck me how, as a student, you are really appreciated. You are on a first-name base with Professors, who value your opinion. That is quite different from what I was used to in Romania. Coming to the Netherlands actually made me be a scientist. I have met inspiring and amazing people and the confidence I experienced was incredible. I have to say that, although speaking Romanian still feels like home, I also really feel at home here. 


Are you interested in learning more about CO2 conversion technologies? Then sign up for the VoltaChem Power-2-X Tour #2 on June 30th (11.00 - 12.30 CEST), an interactive online talkshow on the topic: Opportunities in electrochemical CO2 utilization: From high-value products to high-volume impact. Anca Anastasopol is one of the table guests there, together with Moritz Schreiber (TotalEnergies) and Erica Ording (Avantium).


This is the fourth edition of our 'Pleased to meet:' series. You can read the first one here, featuring Power-2-Chemicals Technical Lead Earl Goetheer. The second one can be read here, featuring Power-2-Hydrogen Technical Lead Arend de Groot. The third one can be read here, featuring Power-2-Integrate Technical Lead Rajat Bhardwaj. 

 

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Want to know more about Power-2-Chemicals? Contact:

Willem Frens

Business Development Power-2-Chemicals/ Commodities

+31 6 483 532 63

willem.frens@voltachem.com

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Reinier Grimbergen

Business Development Power-to-Chemicals/ Specialties

+31 6 271 438 18

reinier.grimbergen@voltachem.com

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