Key research priorities of the faculty

In addition to the FAU key research priorities, the Faculty of Engineering has also established key research priorities which cover the research of its members. The national and international visibility of our frequently interdisciplinary work is high, while research and teaching are closely linked.

 

Digital transformation and electronic systems are the driving force behind almost all social, economic and technical innovations in the 21st century. Digital transformation and electronic systems at the Faculty of Engineering deals with creating knowledge in engineering science for digital transformation and advancing applied research in embedded, cyberphysical and mechatronic systems.

Digitalisation needs increasingly powerful and more complex electronic systems. Scientists at the Faculty of Engineering offer expertise across the entire research spectrum ranging from electronic components and circuit technology to highly integrated circuits and technologies. Their knowledge is brought together in the Leistungszentrum Elektroniksysteme (LZE), the only national centre of electronic systems in Germany. This long-term strategic partnership between FAU, Fraunhofer and industry combines research and teaching of an excellent standard with the rapid development of innovative products.

New methods of visualising, processing and transferring data are fundamental to digital transformation. Scientists at the Faculty of Engineering are at the forefront of international research in digital transmission and audio and video signal processing, with pioneering contributions such as the development of the MP3 codec originating from FAU. Artificial intelligence is playing an ever more important role in fields such as prototyping electronic systems, production in mechanical engineering and in biomedicine research at FAU. Our scientists are also contributing to digital transformation by developing tools and methods for analysing research objects in digital humanities such as images, sculpture and artefacts. This project is part of a close collaboration between FAU and the Germanische Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg.

Beyond fundamental developments in hardware and software, computer-aided modelling and simulation is key to digital transformation. At the Faculty of Engineering, scientists perform cross-scale simulations to explore diverse research questions, starting from the interaction of individual atoms up to components and entire process chains. The aim of this research is to create new materials with specific characteristics and optimise the efficiency of production methods and processes. High-performance computing methods are frequently deployed in this field.

Protecting the environment and climate are among the most significant challenges facing our civilisation in the 21st century. To make life on this planet worth living in the future, we must work towards achieving global sustainability. We must rethink technical value added chains and biogeochemical cycles and ensure that energy supply and consumption are recognised as having an important impact on the climate in the process. Engineering challenges in energy transformation from generating renewable energy, to effective conversation and storage, and supplying industrial processes are important areas of research throughout the Faculty of Engineering.

Scientists working in these fields have a broad range of expertise from developing basic materials (e.g. SiC), components and integration technology to developing complex power electronics systems for e-mobility and electrical power supply in collaboration with researchers from the Fraunhofer institutes IIS and IISB and Leistungszentrum Elektroniksysteme (LZE). Researchers at Energie Campus Nürnberg (EnCN) are developing closed-loop renewable energy chains by focusing on producing electricity from renewable sources, energy storage technologies, efficient consumer systems and intelligent energy management solutions. In partnership with the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nürnberg for Renewable Energy (HI ERN), scientists are developing an interdisciplinary approach to producing renewable energy with printable photovoltaic technology, conversion into chemical energy using electrolysis and fuel cells, and scalable storage in liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC). Computer scientists at the Faculty of Engineering are contributing to digital transformation in the energy system through research on data analytics, control algorithms (also based on machine learning methods) and simulating and optimising smart energy systems for sector coupling.

With a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary research approaches, the Faculty of Engineering is contributing to major and acute challenges facing the environment, climate and energy systems.

New materials research and related process technologies are the bedrock for future industrial innovation particularly in the fields of sustainable energy supply, medicine and mobility. Research at the Faculty of Engineering is highly interdisciplinary and scientists in Materials Processes are developing functional and structural materials representing all length scales from atoms and molecules up to manufactured components. Designing and investigating material interfaces and surfaces is a key area in developing new approaches. To bridge the gap between designing molecular and alloy materials, functional particle systems and component design, new research approaches are needed covering a range of length and time scales. This applies to analysing structures, properties and processes, simulating materials and processes and the relevant manufacturing and processing technologies. Innovative methods and processes from combined materials research, multi-criteria optimisation, high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and 3D printing for discovering new materials and processes are playing an increasingly important role in this research.

Research in medical engineering is of utmost importance in a society which is facing significant demographic change. Medical engineering is integrated into an excellent research environment at FAU. Digitalisation is gaining ground in the healthcare sector, with the aim of improving the quality of life for patients and optimising cost structures in healthcare. Scientists at FAU have made fundamental contributions to medical imaging analysis, biomaterials, digital health, medical robotics, bioinformatics, sensors, personalised medicine and artificial intelligence in medicine. More than 90 professors and lecturers specialise in this area at our university and the Central Institute of Healthcare Engineering (ZiMT) was established in 2009 to provide an institutional framework for their collaboration. Strategic partnerships with Siemens Healthineers, Unversitätsklinikum Erlangen, the Fraunhofer institutes, Medical Valley EMN and many other companies in the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region promote efficient technology transfer. The diversity of research networks in medical engineering demonstrates the increasing complexity and importance of interdisciplinary partnerships in engineering, science, entrepreneurship and medicine.

The 21st century has been referred to as the century of the photon, as optical technologies – also known as photonics – are expected to have a key role in the near future in areas such as energy, industry or medicine. Many areas of research in optical technology draw on such a diverse range of scientific disciplines that they would not be possible without strong interdepartmental partnerships. Interdisciplinary collaboration at FAU has proven highly successful which is evident in the number of third-party funded projects in both basic research (e.g DFG funding) and applied research (BMBF funding). Institutions such as the Erlangen Graduate School in Advanced Optical Technologies promote networking within the Faculty of Engineering while offering opportunities that are the first of their kind in Germany.

Beyond research, optical technologies also has excellent structural support in education and the promotion of young researchers in the Elite degree programme Advanced Optical Technologies and the Erlangen Graduate School in Advanced Optical Technologies. Through strategic partnerships with the Fraunhofer institutes and the Bavarian Laser Centre, scientists maintain strong networks with industry and focus on industrial applications. Our partnership with the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light ensures that optical technologies at FAU is also closely embedded with external basic research in optics.

Optical technologies have a long tradition at the Faculty of Engineering and FAU. Aspects of current research include advanced imaging methods, laser-based additive production processes, optical metrology for combustion processes and nanomaterials, computational optics and applications for photonics in medicine.