Next Generation Computing - Projects 2022

Mobile communication stations with 50 percent lower energy consumption

Auf Basis des Leistungshalbleiters AlScN entwickelt das Fraunhofer IAF energieeffiziente Schaltungen und Komponenten
© Fraunhofer IAF
Fraunhofer IAF is developing energy-efficient circuits and components based on the power semiconductor AlScN

As part of the “Green ICT” initiative from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and based on award-winning preliminary research, a joint research project was launched in early 2022 that aims to develop energy-efficient edge cloud mobile communications systems. The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, together with the University of Freiburg and industrial enterprises, want to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the energy consumption of mobile communication stations by 2025 when transmitting in the millimeter-wave range of 5G. To achieve this, the partners are combining energy-efficient components with smart and demand-driven control systems.

For this purpose, Fraunhofer IAF is manufacturing power semiconductors based on aluminum scandium nitride (AlScN) and incorporating them into transistors with high electron mobility (High-Electron-Mobility Transistors, HEMTs). The use of this semiconductor material, which the institute produces by means of metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD), has the potential to provide significantly higher power density and amplification due to its high current-carrying capacity compared to established semiconductors such as silicon, gallium arsenide or gallium nitride. Efficient electronics design together with intelligent networking and demand-driven control of the transmitter and receiver modules supported by artificial intelligence (AI) offer further potential for savings. The innovative electronics architecture of Fraunhofer IIS relies on a partial shift in processing capacity from the central infrastructure (cloud) to the edge of the network (edge) and envisages that data processing will take place there.

A large number of industry partners are assisting with the implementation of an antenna system (Remote Radio Head, RRH) in which these technologies are brought together: Novel high-frequency transistors developed by Nokia, circuit processing by United Monolithic Semiconductors GmbH, and evaluation and transmission of test results by Deutsche Telekom AG.

The preliminary work on EdgeLimit won second place in the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)’s “Electronics for energy-saving information and communication technology” innovation competition back in 2021.


Press release »Solution for energy-saving mobile radio base stations«

QSolid: The first German quantum computer is the ultimate goal

Kryogener Aufbau und Ansteuerung eines supraleitenden Quantencomputers am Forschungszentrum Jülich
© Forschungszentrum Jülich / Sascha Kreklau
Cryogenic setup and control of a superconducting quantum computer at Forschungszentrum Jülich

“The road to the first German quantum computer” were the headlines at the launch of the QSolid joint research project. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is aiming to create a demonstrator for a fully functional quantum computer by 2024, based on cutting-edge technology from Germany, with funding of €76.3 million.

The research consortium, coordinated by the Forschungszentrum Jülich, will pave the way for the commercialization of quantum computers and create a comprehensive ecosystem for a demonstrator based on superconducting qubits. At the end of development process, the demonstrator will be accessible to external users via the Jülich UNified Infrastructure for Quantum computing (JUNIQ). The consortium partners are aiming to develop a system with various quantum processors, including superconducting ones. Next-generation superconducting circuits, including a “moonshot” system that has been shown to outperform conventional computers, and high-quality qubits are expected to provide reduced error rates and unprecedented computing performance.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS (Center Nanoelectronic Technologies section) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM (All Silicon System Integration Dresden institute branch) are the Fraunhofer institutes that are taking part in the project. Together with partner company GLOBALFOUNDRIES, they are contributing their know-how and infrastructure with a view to designing and manufacturing scalable quantum processors. This involves, for example, manufacturing processes such as deposition, nanopatterning, and wafer-scale electrical and cryogenic characterization. In particular, interposer technology that focuses on high-density superconducting connections and thermal decoupling through advanced packaging will be developed.

The superconducting qubit approach is regarded as promising in the international community. To achieve the project goals of QSolid, the results of national and European joint research projects that have already been begun will be incorporated.


Press release »Fraunhofer IPMS is part of BMBF funded project QSolid«

Sensors learn to think

Forschende am Fraunhofer IWU bei der Erfassung erster anwendungsspezifischer Trainingsdaten für die KI des NeurOSmart-Systems
© Fraunhofer IWU
Researchers at Fraunhofer IWU collect initial, application-specific training data for the NeurOSmart system AI.

In the Fraunhofer lighthouse project NeurOSmart, five Fraunhofer institutes have teamed up to research particularly energy-efficient and intelligent sensors for the next generation of autonomous systems. In the process, they are redefining the connections between perception and information processing through innovative electronics.

For them to continue working fairly autonomously in their various areas of application, the robots are packed with sensors and electronics to make them into mobile supercomputers. However, this consumes considerable amounts of energy; according to current predictions, robotic energy consumption will stretch global generation capacity to its limits over the coming decades. This is why Fraunhofer researchers are working on a form of decentralized intelligence that is tailored specifically to each sensor. Neuromorphic electronics are based on a very energy-efficient model: the human brain. Instead of using multiple components that consume a lot of energy in communicating with each other, this alternative approach is based on a new form of analog computer memory technology that can be used to recognize objects and their behavior with great accuracy and in real time.

In parallel, the researchers are developing very small, efficient object recognition and classification models that are specially adapted to the sensors, as well as to the new possibilities opened up by directly integrated electronics and their applications. The results are rapid reaction times, improved data protection and significant energy savings when compared to the current trend of cloud-based solutions that tend to rely on ever larger and more energy-intensive models. In the coming years, this approach will be combined with a more complex LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) system developed by Fraunhofer and tested in an environment that closely imitates realworld applications. This 3D laser scanning system is crucial for autonomous systems, as it can perceive its environment even in poor visibility conditions and over a wide focus range.

Project information "NeurOSmart"

Photonics to secure the Internet of Things

Elektronik soll vertrauenswürdiger werden – etwa durch lichtbasierte Datenübertragung und -berechnung. Die Schaltung repräsentiert das Design und die Herstellung in Silizium-Stickstoff-Technologie.
© Fraunhofer IZM
How can we make our electronics more reliable? Light-based data transmission and calculation could be the answer. The circuit shows how this could be designed and manufactured with siliconnitrogen technology.

Countless apps are already generating added value for end users, industry, logistics and business, thanks to the Internet of Things and its network of intelligent physical and virtual objects. The number of IoT devices is predicted to rise from 30 to 75 billion by 2025 — meaning there’s a more urgent need than ever before to protect the IoT and its applications against cyberattackers. Up to now, this has mostly been done through hardware- based cryptographic algorithms. However, with the rise in communication speeds, the cost and energy budget is increasingly dipping into the negative range here.

A consortium of industry and scientific partners has been working on a novel approach to this problem since 2021, with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). This project, titled Silhouette, is part of the BMBF’s VELEKTRONIK program; the end goal of the initiative is a universal platform solution for developing hybrid systems. One key element of the project is to systematically convert safety-critical electrical signals into optical signals and then process and/or validate them before finally reconverting them to their original form. The photonic transmission channels have the major advantage of being tap-proof and virtually impossible to manipulate. Thanks to the hybrid approach, existing safety-critical components from third-party suppliers can still be used, which means it will also be possible to retain the current broad range of applications. Other development requirements include low manufacturing costs and the possibility of producing these hybrid electro- optical circuits in batches. The Silhouette consortium’s electro-optical platform solution will be based in the European economic area, so that technological sovereignty and reliability are guaranteed at every stage, including during design and manufacturing processes. To achieving manufacturing sovereignty, the researchers will need the simplest and most universal photonic interface possible to existing digital components.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS is coordinating the project along with a number of Fraunhofer and non-university research institutes, OSRAM Opto Semiconductors and qutools, a Munichbased company for developing and marketing quantum optics.


Press release »European project develops tap-proof communication solution«