In conversation with the new executive director Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Quay

In January 2022, Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Quay took over the position of acting executive director at Fraunhofer IAF. In this interview, he looks ahead to the future, to the topic of sustainability and an independent European semiconductor manufacturing.

What are your plans as executive director of Fraunhofer IAF?

Quay — For me, it is important to make the institute more modern — both the topics and the structures. Quantum technologies are an important future topic in which we want to take a leading role, although this does not contradict the many opportunities in the area of more classical IAF topics. As far as organizational structures are concerned, it is important to me that we open up further and learn new work processes. We are, for example, currently in the process of writing software as well. That is very exciting. Another new area is simulation: If we simulate new concepts with new processes on the computer first, it will offer us much more flexibility for our research.

The core of our institute is and remains the clean room. We want to establish strong partnerships within the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in this field that will allow us to realize larger projects. And for me personally, it is very important that our employees enjoy being here and have fun doing research.

Portrait Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Quay
© Fraunhofer IAF
Prof. Dr. Ruediger Quay, professor for energy-efficient radio-frequency electronics, took up the position of executive director at Fraunhofer IAF in January 2022.

Why is the topic “energy-efficient electronics” so important?

Quay — Every electronic device could be energy efficient. From smartphones and cars to satellite systems, all devices rely on using as little energy as possible, because energy is always in short supply. Moreover, electronics are the foundation of digitalization, and I cannot imagine tomorrow’s world without digitalization. While the demands for digitalization are increasing, it is extremely important that, at the same time, electronics become more efficient. After all, this is the need of our society and especially of the younger generation: to live in a climate-neutral way. Considering the growth in the world’s population, that is indeed one of the greatest challenges of this century.

How can we live in a climate-neutral way?

Quay — Actually, we could reduce our ecological footprint quite simply by consuming less with given technology. But that does not correspond to our development as humans: In the Western world, we want to live and consume in a modern way. At the same time, increasing consumption is no longer compatible with what we can expect of our planet. A compromise has to be found, and energy-efficient electronics are a major factor here, because digital processes basically have the potential to minimize energy problems in many areas.

What is Fraunhofer IAF‘s contribution?

Quay — But it is important that we don’t focus exclusively on our own expertise here. It is by working within the strong research landscape in Germany, with a rich ecosystem of research groups, start-ups, SMEs and large companies with wide-ranging capabilities, that we will be able to expand the field. One thing is clear: European quantum technologies can only be developed successfully through a joint initiative where we pool our expertise.

How can one manage to think “in new ways” in research?

Quay — Imagination is the most important requirement here. For us, materials are important. We have the entire periodic table at our disposal, and I am extremely optimistic that there are still many possibilities for improving energy efficiency. The next step is to question what already exists. There is no law of nature stating that one has to lose over 95 percent of energy in data transmission at high frequencies. The reason is that we are not there yet. In addition, you need the willingness to implement things and to change. Ten years ago, no one would have believed that the IAF could develop software. Now we are doing it and it works!

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has set itself the goal of conducting climate-neutral research by 2030. How can this be achieved at Fraunhofer IAF?

Quay — We will fundamentally transform our clean room — from energy procurement to consumption — and design the equipment processes so that as little energy as possible is wasted. In the long term, we will examine whether resourceintensive processes can be saved in the cleanroom. However, we have to weigh up what is possible in operation, as the cleanroom requirements for manufacturing high-quality components are constantly increasing.

How can you counteract a future chip shortage?

Quay — IAF has long had an independent manufacturing operation and supplies certain semiconductors in attractive quantities. This will remain and will be further expanded. In the long run, we in Europe must learn to remain permanently less vulnerable in the global value chain. Many have realized this, which is why the European Chips Act is so relevant. And it will be important to maintain independence when there are enough chips again in the hog cycle.

Fraunhofer IAF has a very broad research spectrum — what is the common denominator of the different fields?

Quay — IAF stands on many feet and that has always been wise. The challenge is to be very good in these many fields. We now have about 300 employees who want to have a common understanding of where they want to go. That is why sometimes we have to navigate. As director of the institute, I consider myself responsible to make sure that people enjoy doing research here, and that we can conduct research at the highest level. That is the common denominator at the end of the day — satisfied employees doing cutting-edge research together in the very dynamic Fraunhofer model.

What is your vision of the future of our society?

Quay — I believe in a society that wants to continue to stay connected, that takes climate goals seriously and that lives freely and democratically. Our need to meet people in person will persist. If I am not allowed to fly in the future, understanding and cultural exchange will not work. My vision is of advanced communications technology that saves as many tedious journeys as possible, so that people can travel with a clear conscience, if they still want to. We must work to make things that seem incompatible more compatible. Although primarily technical, the contributions of science are highly relevant to society. I am looking forward to the numerous things that can originate in these challenging times. One day, people will look back and see that many things were kicked off!


Annual Report 2021/2022

»Inventing a Green Future«

Energy-efficient micro- and nanoelectronics for a climate-neutral, secure and independent future.

Electronics based on III-V semiconductors


Get an overview of Fraunhofer IAF's research work in the field of high frequency electronics and power electronics.