Research Program - Overview

Research objectives

Electronics is a crucial driver for innovation in modern societies. It is the basis for finding solutions to big societal problems. The innovation in electronics thrives on delivering everincreasing capabilities that fuel and drive the success of many applications, e.g., wireless communications, machine learning, Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, and the Tactile Internet. Electronics is so crucial that both industry and science communities identified the need to map the potential of its future, leading to the creation of the IRDS roadmap1. It not only outlines the potential of electronics innovation, but also points out the boundaries of what seems achievable based on current knowledge. With insights gained within cfaed’s previous funding period, we are convinced that we can generate breakthroughs that push some of the IRDS boundaries, enabling continued innovation.

Additionally, a precious outcome of this pursuit are our researchers who will be well trained in advancing electronics, an area of crucial importance for the future of Germany and Europe. They will have learned to work in a forward-thinking cluster, advantageously set in Dresden, a melting pot of top research inspiration, education, and strong electronics industry. Having experienced to bridge gaps between disciplines, e.g., natural and engineering sciences, will also prepare our graduates to think and go beyond boundaries.

Research approach

cfaed pursues its vision by a comprehensive collaborative research approach, where natural & material scientists jointly work with engineering scientists, integrating research competency across layers from materials to systems. We work on exploring recent significant advancements in new materials for device fabrication and circuit design features to build novel information processing systems for potential future applications.
During our Excellence Cluster phase 2012-2018, we were reassured that crossing the layers is the road to success.

Our current research directions - called “Key Competency Areas” (KCAs) - have been defined based on our experience and achievements and capture our best chance to lead to specific advantages for new electronics solutions beyond IRDS.
Five of these KCAs explore new materials to build new circuits. These materials-inspired KCAs aim at demonstrating various advantages for electronics, enabling new unforeseen functionality, e.g., by fusing (state) memory, logic, and sensing to generate a new concept for hybrid electronics hardware and software. At a system level, we aim at unprecedented adaptability and flexibility to implement new future systems, featuring functionalities such as zero boot-time, wireless communications beyond Tb/s rates, and very high precision biomolecular sensing and signal processing. Further, customized hardware shall be manufacturable on-demand, e.g. through the printing of organic electronics.
The sixth KCA, “Orchestration”, explores system design to capture the full potential of the materials KCAs’ circuits and based on this, further innovates system design as a whole.
We believe that each of the six KCAs clearly defines an expedition into unexplored territory, and targets types of electronics that enable low-power and low-cost solutions required for future application domains.

In a nutshell, what makes cfaed’s approach truly unique is that it firstly, aims at bridging all the involved abstraction layers, starting from materials, devices, circuits, reaching to (information processing) systems, within a new unifying framework and “vertical measures”. The cfaed Cluster  links a wide range of sciences from material sciences to electrical engineering to computer science. And, secondly, our approach is carried out multiple research directions by our KCAs, which are linked with “horizontal measures”.

As a university team, we understand that we have limited resources for fulfilling a goal as ambitious as pushing the boundaries of IRDS. However, we can fabricate, measure, and simulate individual devices. Our scientific modelling methods are powerful enough to extrapolate to full systems to show the full potential of our findings. This shall excite the research community to start new fields of research, and industry to start large advanced development programs.

Why cfaed will excel
1. A comprehensive vertically integrated approach, spanning from materials to systems.
Based on the following six key ingredients:
2. One location, making it easy for researchers to meet, exchange, and collaborate;
3. An internationally recognized excellence in research, attracting the best researchers;
4. The local concentration of R&D expertise, attracting scientists and industry;
5. Experience in innovation and proven record of success, in particular, bridging from basic sciences to creating 60+ start-ups;
6. The ”Dresden Spirit” of collaboration and joint research, including open sharing of labs;
7. A team with the ambition to push the boundaries of the IRDS roadmap.

Stucture of the research program


Five KCAs envision breakthroughs in enabling new electronics by innovating from materials to circuits. This becomes the basis for the sixth KCA to enable new systems.

Our team spans all KCAs: