Research at the Institute for Computer Engineering

On this page we briefly introduce the six chairs at the Institute for Computer Engineering of the University of Heidelberg and their research areas:

 

 Automation - Prof. Dr. E. Badreddin

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The focus points of research at the Automation Laboratory refer to process control and autonomous systems with various areas of application in engineering and computer science. The laboratory is specialized in two areas of research, which are roughly described in the following. 

Process Control and Dependability

processMany physical and technical systems are hybrid in the sense that they have barriers or limitations. A natural way to model such systems is to use a mixture of differential equations and inequalities. Other systems have switches and relays that can also be naturally modelled as hybrid systems. Sometimes, modes can be strictly speaking not discrete. However, it can be advantageous to model systems in that way. For example, nonlinear system can be modelled using hybrid systems as set of linear models each one covering a part of the state space. Moreover, control systems can require to change their operating point or to be reconfigured at all in case of faults. Thus, fault tolerant control systems (FTC) can also be modelled as hybrid systems.

Hybrid systems and FTC can be applied in a very wide spectrum of applications for example in areas of flight control, air traffic control, missile guidance, process control, robotics, etc. The process control group of the Automation Lab works in the modelling and control of hybrid systems with application to process control plants like desalinations plants, batch processes, bioreactors, and renewable energy systems.

Autonomous Systems and Medical and Rehabilitation Robotics

Autonomous mobile systems, such as robots, can fulfill specific tasks without the help of a human operator. Sensors are used to perceive the environment enabling the robot to navigate safely from place to place and manipulate objects. Medical and Rehabilitation Engineering is a key technology of our society. Areas of application supported by medical devices are intensive care, surgery, and orthopedics as well as many further medical fields. Elderly and disabled people are enabled to manage their life using rehabilitation-technological aids. Robotics

The field of robotics is highly interdisciplinary, so that building a successful autonomous or medical system involves the integration of techniques from many different fields of research. Among the most important ones are control theory, kinematics, dynamics, sensors, actuators, safety technology, dependability, image and signal processing, soft computing, real time programming, cognitive engineering, and many more.

Projects

  • EU Project Open-Gain – Optimal Engineering Design for Dependable Water and Power Generation in Remote Areas Using Renewable Energies and Intelligent Automation

  • Wasseraufbereitung mit regenerativer Energie aus Sonne und Wind

  • ECOMODIS - efficient component-based development of dependable computing systems

  • Further projects are e.g. “Surgical Tool Drive”, “Fault Tolerant Systems”, “Holonomic Mobile Robot”, “Intelligent Wheelchair”, etc. 

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Optoelectronics - Prof. Dr. K.-H. Brenner

The research activities of the chair of optoelectronics cover the development, the fabrication and characterization of micro-optical components and systems. Main application areas of these components are optical communication and medical sensors.

The ion-exchange technique is used for the fabrication of high quality micro-lenses with diffraction limited performance. With this technique, also lenses of different focal lengths can be realized on a single substrate. The lens edge can be circular or square. The main application areas of these micro-lenses are wavefront sensing and optical interconnects.

We use deep lithography with UV-exposure, in order to fabricate alignment structures for optical fiber systems. Using exposure under oblique angles, we can also realize optical micro-mirrors, which can be used to deflect light.

The design and fabrication of non-imaging optical components is a further research area of the chair. Non-imaging elements are used for beam shaping of edge-emitting semiconductor lasers and for the illumination of optical systems.

For the component fabrication, the chair is equipped with a clean-room, a processing laboratory and several optical labs. Our laser-lithography system has a positioning accuracy of 50 nm and a minimum feature size of 0.8 µm on a field of 6" x 6".

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Computer Architecture - Prof. Dr. U. Brüning

CAG logo The Computer Architecture Group at the University of Heidelberg has the expertise to design complex hardware/software systems. As system architects we cover not only the operation principles but include the technology and the software to build real working prototypes. All levels of system design are covered, starting at the application programming interface, e.g. MPI, through the efficient design of device drivers finishing at custom build hardware devices based on standard cells.

 

The group mainly focuses on the design of parallel architectures which achieve their high performance by improving communication between computational devices/units. Scaling such systems is a great challenge to the architecture of the interconnection network (IN) and the network interface controller (NIC). Special attention is paid on the interface between software and hardware to setup communication instructions.

 

Areas of Research:

  • Parallel- and cluster computing
  • New computer architectures und paralell computers
  • Low latency interconnection networks
  • Communication in cluster systems
  • Efficient hardware development tools



Projects include:

  • Center of Excellence for Hypertransport
  • HTX Board: A universal Hypertransport test platform
  • SEED: Support for Education in Electronic Design
  • ATOLL: Atomic low latency interconnect for cluster computing
  • FSM Designer 4: An efficient FSM design tool

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Circuit Design - Prof. Dr. P. Fischer

At the chair of Circuit Design, microelectronic circuits are developed, tested and applied. These microchips often contain extremely sensitive, low noise amplifiers for capturing sensor data and modules for further analog and digital signal processing. The crucial parts of such chips are designed completely manually. They are simulated on the analog level to achieve a maximal performance. The designs are fabricated in state-of-the-art CMOS technologies and are put into operation here at the group. A typical use case consists not only of designing the chip, but also includes building suitable control and data acquisition systems, the control and synchronisation of all components and the analysis of the measured data.

Here are some examples of our recent chip developments:

  • Highly integrated circuits for positron emission tomography 
  • Readout electronics for DEPFET sensors for the future ILC detector
  • Chips for detecting X-rays with hybrid pixel sensors 
  • Novel monolithic pixel sensors 
  • Development of front-end electronics for the CBM experiment at FAIR at the GSI.
  • High-speed microscopy within the Viroquant project
  • Detectors for synchrotron experiments at DESY, ESRF and the future XFEL
  • Circuit design techniques for generation of secret keys for cryptography 

Without such chips and systems being highly optimised for special tasks many research projects today could not be realized.

For students the "Computer Architecture" and "Circuit Design" groups offer the specialisation course on "Chip Design". This starts with the transistor and the fabrication process technologies of chips and provides basic knowledge of analog design and circuits. The description and design of digital circuits is covered in detail and every step from the idea to a complete chip is practically exercised in lab courses. 

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Application Specific Computing- Prof. Dr. R. Strzodka

Displacements in an object under loadTime skewing algorithmParallel access in AoS and SoA

Our research focuses on significant improvements of performance and accuracy in application specific computing through a global optimization across the entire spectrum of numerical methods, algorithm design, software implementation and hardware acceleration.

These layers typically have contradictory requirements and their integration poses many challenges. For example, numerically superior methods expose little parallelism, bandwidth efficient algorithms convolve the processing of space and time into unmanageable software patterns, high level language abstractions create data layout and composition barriers, and high performance on today's hardware poses strict requirements on parallel execution and data access. High performance and accuracy for the entire application can only be achieved by balancing these requirements across all layers.

The following topics are given particular attention:
- Mixed precision methods
- Multigrid methods
- Adaptive data structures
- Data representation
- Bandwidth optimization
- Reconfigurable computing 

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