Professor Peter Hofmann and his team at the Competence Center Electrical and
Electronic (EE) Architecture at the Technische Universität Dresden (TU
Dresden) have successfully developed the first self-organizing electronic components.
These so called autonomous units form the basis for complex technical systems
of the future. For this purpose, the scientists have adopted the knowledge of
complex systems found in nature.
Organisms are structured according to the modular assembly concept – cells form
tissue, tissue forms organs and these in turn form the organism. If individual
cells die off, then the organism continues to function. This is because although
the cells interact with their neighbouring cells, each individual cell is autonomous
in its function. If necessary, it is even possible for other cells to step into
the breach and take on a replacement function.
Engineers have been astonished about how effortlessly natural systems seem to
adapt to new situations. As an example, a population of ants always finds the
shortest way between food site and anthill without possessing a central instructional
order. The mechanisms which take place in the human organism are equally fascinating,
regarding for example injured skin cells or even entire organs which can regenerate
themselves following an accident.
These particular characteristics of natural systems
all have one thing in common: They take place
by themselves. There is no central control
function which issues the cells with a command.
In fact, this is the starting point for the
researchers at the Competence Center of the
TU Dresden. They intend to develop technical
systems with self-organizing characteristics and to apply these in practice.
One area of application, in which researchers have a particular interest, is
the automobile industry.
When nature serves as a model for things technical, this is called “Organic Computing“.
Firstly, the Competence Center EE Architecture of the TU Dresden has analyzed
the basic physical and biological principles of self-organization and abstracted
them for their application in technical systems. Following this, both the structure
and tasks of the units capable of self-organization were described.
In this process, each single element is given
autonomy so they are able to communicate
with the other system units and – on the basis of this communication process
- to co-operate in a way that the objective function is achieved.
This means that the communication process between one particular element and
its corresponding control unit is not fixed from the start. On the contrary,
the controlling unit is able to react upon stimuli sent by diverse elements.
If an electronic control unit (ECU) breaks down, then another control function
can integrate a new element and take on its function. To illustrate this, if
the control switch for an electric window in an automobile should malfunction,
then it is possible for the driver to initiate an autonomous reconfiguration
of the system. As a result, approved by the driver, the window control unit
receives its information from another switch. In this way it is possible to
close the window using that different switch.
Recreating a modern automobile, the Competence Center has developed a test
vehicle known as “August 1“ with which the functioning of decentralized electronic systems
is currently tested. Professor Peter Hofmann and his research team want to find
out how single electronic control units can be organized autonomously, i.e. independently
of other systems. The advantage of this would be for instance that each wheel
can be controlled and driven individually. As a result, the scientists hope that
automotive electronics can be made even more reliable by decentralizing its functioning.
Furthermore, decentrally organized systems are very robust and able to adapt
to changes caused by the environment. In the field of technology this principle
has until now only been applied with computers in a simplified way. USB ports
are used to attach various external devices, which the computer recognizes, accepts
The Competence Center EE Architecture was founded in 2002 and belongs to the
Faculty of Transport Engineering “Friedrich List“ of the TU Dresden.
further information, please contact:
Prof. Peter E. H.
Technische Universitaet Dresden
+49 351 463-39560
Technische Universitaet Dresden