Electrical Engineering and Information Technology

The main research areas of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) are energy technology, radio systems, medical technology, and micro-, nano- and optoelectronics. The Department’s 20 professors work closely with the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems (IMS) in Duisburg, the Forschungszentrum Jülich research centre, and IMST GmbH in Kamp-Lintfort.

Research Highlights

Among the most successful activities in medical technology research at the Institute of Electronic Components and Circuits (EBS) are the DFG-funded collaborative projects BiMEAs and OptoEpiret. They are conducted with medical researchers, biologists and technologists from Aachen and Jülich and concern development of highly specialised integrated circuits to restore sight in people with retina dysfunction. Within the “PAnalytics” interdisciplinary junior research group, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), doctoral students are researching non-invasive “wearable” technology that can sense peoples’ emotional states. The aim is for future human–technology interfaces to be personalised and able to adapt dynamically during use to the wearer’s emotional state. In close collaboration with Fraunhofer IMS and based on technologies and facilities available there, researchers are exploring innovative methods of coating and structuring surfaces to electrically influence local wetting behaviour of liquids. This will make it possible in future to generate, move and separate minimal amounts of liquids on surfaces, e.g. in laboratory diagnosis.

In mobile radio systems, the Institute of Optoelectronics (OE) has developed and filed a patent application for 60-GHz base stations with millimetre-wave beamforming. In cooperation with numerous industrial partners from Europe and Japan, it has coordinated installation of a complete mobile radio network in one of the largest shopping centres in Poland. The network installed there supports innovative millimetre-wave 5G radio technology as well as conventional LTE and WiFi (Multi Radio Access Technology) and is linked up by glass fibre to three data hubs in Warsaw.

Smart technologies and systems are an essential part of Industry 4.0. The Institute of Automatic Control and Complex Systems (AKS) has focused its research in the field of process monitoring and tolerant control more heavily on networked and distributed systems with embedded smart components and is working successfully as part of the collaborative research projects GreenEnergyFirst and RadINSPECT (Radar as quality control in real-time). Modelling and development of printable, flexible and chipless radio-frequency identification tags (RFIDs) is currently the subject of intense research at the Institute of General and Theoretical Electrical Engineering (ATE) as part of two larger-scale collaborative projects (DFG and EU ERDF Interreg V). This RFID technology, designed as a future alternative to optical barcodes, is extremely low-cost (1 Eurocent) and based on printable µm-scale silicon micro-cones, which can operate at frequencies far in excess of 10 GHz.

In micro-, nano- and optoelectronics, Prof. Nils Weimann was appointed to the Institute of High-Frequency Electronic Devices (BHE) in 2017 as the successor to Prof. Franz-Josef Tegude. Electronic Terahertz semiconductor components on an indium phosphide basis (InP) are produced and explored at the Center for Semiconductor Technology and Optoelectronics (ZHO). The work is partly funded by two subprojects of Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio 196 MARIE. The Institute of Optoelectronics (OE), similarly with funding through projects in CRC/TRR 196, was involved in drawing up the Terahertz Science Roadmap, which appeared in 2017, and presented the world’s first THz radio communication with ultra-high spectral efficiency based on optoelectronic technologies.

In nanoparticle processing, the size distributions of connected groups of particles are still largely assessed manually on microscopic images, which takes up to three hours per sample. The aim of the IGF project “20226N – Deep-Learning Particle Recognition” at the Institute of Technology for Nanostructures (NST) is therefore for neuronal networks in future to independently learn how to do this repetitive task. In printable electronics, meanwhile, the priority for NST is doped silicon nanoparticles and their application in functional layers as electrodes in Li ionic batteries, solar cells and thermoelectric and high-frequency applications.

In energy technology, the Institutes of Electrical Systems and Networks (EAN) and Energy Transport and Storage (ETS) are researching integration of renewable electricity generation in existing grids and aspects of electromagnetic compatibility. In a BMBF-funded cooperative project, work with an industrial partner has led to development of an innovative system for measuring currents across a large bandwidth in high-voltage direct current power transmission with more accurate information about the grid and converter status. In the BMBF collaborative project iShield, which was completed in mid-2018, ETS and other higher education institutions and industry worked together on solutions for insulation systems under electrical/thermal/mechanical loads for large generators and motors.

Cooperation and International News

The members of the EIT Department work directly with many partners from research and industry around the world. Exchange between researchers is supported by the DAAD’s PPP programmes and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH).

The EIT Department cooperates with numerous academic and industrial partners worldwide (among them HITACHI, FINISAR, VODAFONE, CORNING, SIKLU, RUNEL). For example, photonics development for 5G in the European EUIMWP-COST network (https://euimwp.eu/) of over 50 international partners is coordinated from Duisburg. Doctoral students visited other research institutions around the world, and numerous researchers from countries including the USA, Cyprus, Italy, Thailand and Cameroon came to Duisburg in return. The Department also has strong ties with the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, and it was during Prof. Safumi Suzuki’s stay as Mercator visiting professor that injection-coupled tunnel diode oscillators at over 500 GHz were first demonstrated. There is also close collaboration with the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibniz Insitut für Höchstfrequenzelektronik (FBH) in Berlin, on the development of InP-THz transistors.

The world’s most important international automatic fire detection conference, AUBE, was held in 2017 (“16th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection”) in Hyattsville, MD (USA) and organised from Duisburg in collaboration with the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation, Quincy, MA (USA). The conference took place together with the Suppression and Detection Conference SUPDET 2017 and was attended by 178 researchers from 14 countries. They published a total of 84 contributions.

Awards and Distinctions

Prof. Steven X. Ding was named “Highly cited researcher 2017, 2018” in the research category “Engineering” by Clarivate Analytics. He is among the top 1% of the most-cited authors in this research field.

Best Student Paper Award (2nd) at the UK-Europe-China Workshop on Millimetre-Waves and Terahertz Technologies (UCMMT 2017) in Liverpool, UK, for K. Arzi, G. Keller, A. Rennings, D. Erni, F.-J. Tegude, and W. Prost, “Frequency locking of a free running resonant tunneling diode oscillator by wireless sub-harmonic injection locking”.

CENIDE Best Poster Award 2017, VDI Ruhr regional association “Förderpreis 2017”, and 2017 Engineering Innovation Award of Sparkasse am Niederrhein to Max Frei for research results in his Master’s thesis at the Institute of Technology for Nanostructures.

Future Prospects

In an effort to strengthen the medical technology research area, a new appointment has recently been made to a professorship for “Integrated Micro and Nano Systems for Medical Technology” in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems (IMS) in Duisburg: Prof. Karsten Seidl has been appointed to the Institute of Electronic Components and Circuits (EBS) and will be instrumental in intensifying the already diverse activities in micro- and nano-systems for medical technology applications and extending research further to include biosensors and biohybrid systems. Linked to this professorship is the role of group leader of a newly created department within IMS, which will intensify cooperation in research and teaching with the EIT Department.

With their joint proposal smartBeam, the Institutes BHE, OE and DSV have successfully participated in the ForLab call under the federal government’s Hightech Strategy. The Center for Semiconductor Technology and Optoelectronics (ZHO) is set from January 2019 to become the central research laboratory in Germany for THz beamsteering.

Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio 196 “MARIE – Mobile Material Characterization and Localization by Electromagnetic Sensing” was set up in 2017 and is a long-term research prospect for the participating Institutes (BHE, DSV, NTS, ATE and OE) of the EIT Department. Taking part alongside the researchers from the UDE are experts from Ruhr University Bochum, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Technische Universität Darmstadt and the two Fraunhofer Institutes IMS in Duisburg and FHR in Wachtberg.