History of the Institute of Electronics

The history of the Institute of Electronics goes back to July 24, 1963, when Dipl. Ing. Dr.-Ing. Wilfried Fritsche was appointed full university professor for high-frequency technology. At that time, the Institute of High Frequency Technology and Electronics was founded as the first of a series of so-called "weak current institutes" as part of the former Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.

The first accommodation of the institute was in the “Neue Technik” at Kopernikusgasse 24. Since the subject areas to be represented by the newly established institute were completely new at this university, the creation of the infrastructure necessary for research and teaching had to be started immediately.

In addition to research and teaching in classical high-frequency technology, electronics was increasingly represented - especially digital technology, which was still quite young at the time.

In 1972, the institute moved to the newly constructed building in Inffeldgasse 12, where it is still located.

The first areas of research included methods and equipment for searching for avalanche victims, methods for determining glacier thickness and snow depth, and systems for monitoring avalanches using radar technology. In the following years, other focal points such as stereo television and measurements in sports were added. With the transformation of the “Technische Hochschule” into a Technical University, the foundation of an own faculty for electrical engineering and the change of the institute's name to "Institute for Electronics" took place in 1975.

On April 1, 1984, o.Univ.Prof. Dr.phil Hans Leopold took over the management of the institute after Prof. Fritsche died suddenly and completely unexpectedly.

With Prof. Leopold, a fundamental reorientation in research and development began, and the central focus was now on electronic circuit design, as well as the design, simulation and testing of integrated circuits, electromagnetic compatibility, and the development of electronic systems suitable for production. Focal points that have remained core research topics until today.

The technical equipment of the institute was also significantly expanded in view of the new fields of work. For example, a CAD laboratory with powerful workstations for the design of integrated circuits and a fully equipped EMC laboratory were built. Due to the close cooperation with the surrounding industry like Austria Mikro Systeme (today ams), Siemens Entwicklungszentrum für Mikroelektronik (today Infineon Technologies AG). Steyr Daimler Puch AG, Anton Paar GmbH, AVL,... as well as the Institute for Sensor Technology of the Forschungsgesellschaft Joanneum (today Joanneum Research), there was a constant contact to relevant research questions from practice.

The rapid development of electronics, especially microelectronics, was also taken into account in teaching, and new courses on topics such as "Integrated Circuits", "Electromagnetic Compatibility", "Automotive Electronics" and "Production-oriented Development of Electronic Devices" were established step by step. The participation in the Austrian projects UNICHIP and AUSTROCHIP/TMOe (Technologieverband Mikroelektronik Österreich) and in the European projects ESPRIT II, EUROCHIP and EUROPRACTICE underline the high value of the focus on the field of integrated circuits.

After Prof. Leopold retired, Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Wolfgang Pribyl took over the management of the institute on September 1, 2005. In addition to the institute's traditional focal points - electronic devices and systems as well as electromagnetic compatibility - the topic of integrated circuits and microelectronics was strongly expanded. The institute had been increasingly involved in design methods for integrated circuits at a very early stage. The research activities of the institute continued to focus on analog and mixed analog/digital circuits and, subsequently, increasingly also on high-frequency circuits.

A major milestone in the reporting period was the establishment of a master’s education program specializing on "Analog Chip Design" by integrating this as optional subject into the master's programs in electrical engineering and telematics in 2007.

In this context, the local microelectronics industry deserves great thanks for its generous support. On the one hand, the support is done through continuous financial contributions and, on the other hand, the fact that some of the best engineers of the participating companies work as external lecturers be sent to the institute to give special courses. Without this commitment the institution of such a focus in education would not have been possible. Today the institute offers 23 courses in this field.

Thanks to the good industrial contacts, it has also been possible during this time to acquire a large number of nationally or internationally funded third-party projects.

Until September 2011, Prof. Pribyl continued to expand the institute in two main areas; electronic systems with an emphasis in high precision instrumentation and automotive systems, as well as analogue and mixed signal chip design with an emphasis on the needs of the local industry in the field (e.g. austriamicrosystems, Dialog Semiconductors, Infineon Technologies, Micronas, NXP, National Semiconductors, Texas Instruments). These led to many interesting research activities and numerous exciting topics for Ph.D. theses. Through these cooperations, practice-relevant technical tasks could be worked on with the necessary scientific depth. The results of these were reflected in a gratifyingly high number of scientific publications by the scientific staff of the institute.

On March 1st 2014 Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.- techn. Bernd Deutschmann was appointed Professor of Electronics at Graz University of Technology and took over the management of the institute at that time. During his time as head of the institute, he succeeded in expanding the traditional research areas of the institute, e.g. by setting up a female tenure-track position in a new research area on the "radiation hardness" of integrated circuits. In addition, the infrastructure in the research area of electromagnetic compatibility of electronic systems was further expanded by the acquisition of new measurement equipment in order to additionally characterize the EMC behavior of integrated circuits.

But also in the area of teaching, much has changed and improved at the institute since that time. A lot of time and energy has been spent on modernization. The institute was one of the first to focus on communication in social media and to post information from research and teaching in digital form. The advantages of digitization were also used extensively in teaching, and the corresponding teaching content has been made available to students in digital form ever since. In addition to numerous teaching and further education videos (e.g. provided via YouTube), new teaching methods and teaching concepts were thus created, such as the holding of courses according to the "Flipped Classroom" concept.

At this point it should also be mentioned that Mr. Michael Fuchs was awarded the "Special Prize for Digital Teaching" for his outstanding teaching in November 2020.

One of the annual highlights is the information event "The Silicon Valley of Austria", organized since 2014 by Prof. Deutschmann. At this event representatives of the surrounding semiconductor manufacturers introduce themselves to the students and are available to answer questions about starting a career.

Of course, the annual EMV-Fachtagung, which is alternately organized by the institute and Seibersdorf Lobor GmbH, must also be mentioned here as a further highlight. The EMV-Fachtagung has developed into an annual fixed point for the exchange of experience and ideas within the EMC community over the last twenty years.

In January 2020 TU Graz and Silicon Austria Labs (SAL) launch their first research labs and lay the foundation for a joint fundamental research in the field of electronics-based systems. One of the two research labs, which is codirected by Prof. Deutschmann will jointly conduct research in the electromagnetic compatibility of electronics-based systems together with the Institute for Microwave and Photonic Engineering, the Institute of Fundamentals and Theory in Electrical Engineering and SAL.

In the course of the further expansion of the institute Prof. Deutschmann also succeeded in filling a new endowed professorship for "Robust Electronics Systems" with Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. David Pommerenke, who started as further Professor at the institute in January 2020. As a result, it was possible to close the still missing gap in research of robust electronic systems in the field of improving the immunity against electrostatic discharges (ESD).

In order to master the increasing economic and social challenges, universities increasingly have to assume further responsibility. To fulfill their so-called "third mission", they are increasingly integrating their knowledge from research and teaching into society and the economy. This is a challenge that the institute has been meeting for a long time, for example through numerous cooperations with industry. The institute has also taken on a pioneering role in the transfer of knowledge from the field of teaching. For example, in the so-called Inno-EBS (Interdisciplinary knowledge transfer in Electronic Based Systems) project, further education measures are offered for people from industry. Together with several other industrial and university partners in Europe, the institute is also working on the EU-funded METIS project against the shortage of skilled workers in the field of microelectronics. In both projects the institute plays an important role.

Today, the institute comprises a total of 14 scientific staff (2 Full Professors, 1 Associate Professor, 1 Tenue Track University Assistant Professors, 2 University Assistant Professors and 8 PhD and Post Doc University Assistants), 6 administrative and workshop/laboratory staff, 19 student assistants, 5 external lecturers and one trainee. Currently, 18 PhD students are working on their dissertations in the fields of microelectronics, IC design, radiation hardness, and electromagnetic compatibility.

In the field of teaching, the institute currently offers 52 different courses (26 in WS, 26 in SS) within the bachelor, master and PhD programs in the branches of study Electrical Engineering and Information Technology as well as Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering.