Research Field Key Technologies

Scientists in the Helmholtz Association's research field Key Technologies work on topics including new components for tomorrow's computers, energy-saving supercomputers, and custom-made materials for use in technology and medicine. 

Insights into Research Field Key Technologies

Here, we present projects currently being carried out by scientists at the Helmholtz Centres.

En route to the next generation of supercomputers

Forschungszentrum Jülich

At CeBIT 2016 in Hannover, Forschungszentrum Jülich presented a new computer architecture for next-generation supercomputers, the result of the EU research project DEEP (Dynamical Exascale Entry Platform) coordinated by Jülich Supercomputing Centre. The computer is based on the “cluster-booster” concept and uses an innovative, highly efficient cooling system. Jülich and its partners have thereby taken a further step along the road to an exascale computer that will be able to perform over one quintillion computing operations per second. The cluster-booster concept functions like a turbocharger in a combustion engine, with the booster accelerating the cluster component. A cluster of high-performance multicore processors executes the complex parts of a programme. Simple programme elements, by contrast, are implemented by booster modules that consist of simple processor cores. These cores can calculate less complicated tasks in a much more energy-efficient manner.

The prototype showcased in Hannover featured a particularly innovative cooling system, a so-called GreenICE booster. The electronic assemblies are immersed in a special liquid that evaporates at a temperature of just 40 degrees Celsius. The phase transition from liquid to gaseous maximises the cooling effect. As a result, no waste heat is released into the environment and the energy requirements for cooling are cut to around 1 percent of overall system consumption.

In a successor project dubbed DEEP-ER (DEEP-Extended Reach), which is also being funded by the EU and coordinated by Jülich, researchers are aiming to develop a highly efficient system for data input and output. This would be particularly useful for applications such as climate simulations that involve vast amounts of data because here data bottlenecks can develop that slow down the entire system.

The second challenge being taken on in the DEEP-ER project is to make the computers of the future more reliable. There is a risk that the sheer number of components in exascale computers could result in several failures per hour with current hardware. To ensure that application programmesdo not lose their interim results and data, DEEPER researchers are aiming to develop tools that employ simple methods to enable programmes to continue running.

New insights into the genesis of depression

Forschungszentrum Jülich

Depression is linked to organic changes in the brain. Jülich neuroscientists have now shown that in people suffering from depression the volume of a particular part of the brain, the medial frontal pole, is reduced. To conduct their study, the scientists used the three-dimensional JuBrain digital brain atlas, which comprises maps of over 200 areas of the brain. Within the framework of the Human Brain Project, JuBrain is being further developed into a multimodal brain model, based in part on insights into the genetic features of the brain’s regions and cells.

Rerams with long-term stability

Forschungszentrum Jülich

Memristive cells, or ReRAMS, could in future provide the basis of fast and effective computer memories. However, this technology has still not been perfected. A team of researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University have now discovered how storage cells that rapidly lose data can be distinguished microscopically from those with long-term stability. In the process they also found a way to make storage cells error-resistant. It is based on a storage layer for oxygen ions that can slow down and possibly completely suppress the error-producing process.

Bone regeneration with hydrogels

Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG)

Bone material that has been damaged or lost does not always regenerate by itself. In cooperation with researchers from Berlin and Rostock, the Institute of Biomaterial Science at HZG has introduced soft 3D architectured hydrogels based on gelatine and lysine that enable bone to heal completely in only a few weeks. Regeneration is achieved by residual cells that migrate into the material in vivo. In this process, cell differentiation and cell proliferation are supported i. a. by cell adhesion sites and a growing of the pores while the material degrades.

Magnesium affects growth and differentiation of bone cells

Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG)

Scientists at HZG have conducted a pioneering study of the effect of magnesium implants on bone growth. The researchers used a cell-culture model in which bone-forming and bone-degrading cells were incubated together. Combined in this way, the cells tolerate higher concentrations of magnesium than in monocultures and communicate with one another differently. The result is an overall increase in the number of bone-forming cells, which in turn deposit more calcium, thereby contributing to bone regeneration. The study shows on a molecular level how an optimised release of magnesium can assist in the healing process.

World’s smallest lattice structure

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

KIT scientists have created the world’s smallest manmade lattice structure. Consisting of carbon with a glassy consistency, the struts are less than one micrometre long and 200 nanometres in diameter. The basic structure was created using 3D laser lithography and then shrunk and vitrified by means of pyrolysis. Due to its tiny dimensions, the structure exhibits previously unattained strength-to-density ratios. Possible applications include microelectronics and optical components.

How copper makes organic lightemitting diodes more efficient

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

The use of copper as a fluorescent substance allows for the manufacture of inexpensive, environmentally friendly organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Socalled thermally active delayed fluorescence ensures a high light yield. Scientists from KIT, KIT spinoff CYNORA GmbH, and the University of St Andrews in the UK have now measured the speed of the underlying quantum mechanics phenomenon of intersystem crossing in a copper complex. The results of this fundamental research will help to enhance the OLEDs’ energy efficiency.

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