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HOW DOES THE FRAUNHOFER SOLAR CELL PRINTING PROCESS WORK?

HOW DOES THE FRAUNHOFER SOLAR CELL PRINTING PROCESS WORK?

Solar cell production at a high level

In collaboration with Asys Automatisierungssysteme GmbH, Fraunhofer ISE has developed a process for metallizing silicon solar cells. With the help of this process, it is possible to produce solar cells in a high-throughput facility in a fraction of the previous time. Which benefits the largest solar module manufacturers in particular. The coating is realized using rotary screen printing and flexographic printing processes.
The line, called Rock-Star, works one and a half times faster than other lines, with throughput equivalent to up to 8000 parts per hour. Parts for other areas such as power electronics, hydrogen technology and sensor technology can also be used. The cycle time here drops to just 0.6 seconds per solar cell, which is a huge improvement in time management compared to the previous 0.9 seconds in the flatbed screen printing process.

Function of the system

The line features a completely new high-throughput transport system. When components are made, they are transported on shuttles at high speed and accuracy past printing units made by Gallus Ferd Rüesch AG, a mechanical engineering company based in Switzerland, and coated in the process.
A rotary screen printing unit and a flexographic printing unit can be added. Some printing as well as coating processes, such as gravure printing, can also be integrated due to the design. In this way, the components can be conveyed at 600 mm/s and printed accurately. Due to the metallization of the solar cells, busbars and cell grids are attached to the solar cell by screen printing.

History of the Fraunhofer Institute

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems belongs to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. and is located in Freiburg im Breisgau. It was founded in 1981 by Adolf Goetzberger. In 1983, the development of the first fully electronic ISE inverter was already successful. In 1986, the first series product with a fluorescent collector for energy supply was created here, and in 1989, the first clean room laboratory for the development of solar cells was opened. Since 1998, selective solar absorber layers for thermal solar collectors have also been produced.
In general, the institute is dedicated to applied research and development in engineering and natural sciences in the field of solar technology and photovoltaics. There is an external site in Gelsenkirchen, which produces solar cells. The institute is the largest solar research institute in Europe with over 1100 employees, and the budget is approximately 83.5 million euros.

The Frauenhofer Institute extends to 66 sites with over 22,000 employees in Germany. The Rock-Star facility was founded by Dr. Florian Clement, who is the head of the Structuring and Production Technology and Metallization department at Fraunhofer ISE, and has been its director since its inception.

History of ASYS Automatisierungssysteme GmbH

ASYS Automatisierungssysteme GmbH was founded in 1992 as a mechanical engineering company in Dornstadt by Werner Kreibl and Klaus Mang. Among other things, it produces stencil and screen printers, which are used to coat printed circuit boards with solder paste and solar cells with metallization paste. The company also produces handling systems for electronics manufacturing and automation technology for the medical technology and pharmaceutical industries. The turnover of ASYS Automatisierungs- GmbH is approximately 151 million euros per year. The company employs approximately 1300 people and covers about 75 percent of the SMT production line.

Contribution to climate protection

With the solar cells, which can now be produced much faster, climate change can be reduced at least slightly. Renewable electricity is used here instead of relying on conventional, non-renewable energy sources such as oil or gas, whose use leads to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than renewable electricity. Of course, accelerating the production of solar cells is only a small contribution to climate protection. However, if more and more people switch to solar cells, the effect would increase day by day. Thus, with enough participation, it could be enough to slow down or even stop man-made climate change.
Revolution in solar cell production: the Rock-Star plant
With its short production times and high production rate, the Rock-Star plant is an asset in solar cell production, accelerating the production of solar cells in Germany and worldwide. It makes a not inconsiderable contribution to sustainably stabilizing the climate with solar cells and other products and thus becomes a true asset for the world.

Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash

What is Space Valley Ottobrunn? Research areas, companies, vision

What is Space Valley Ottobrunn? Research areas, companies, vision

What at first sounds like a new blockbuster movie is in fact a research region for aeronautics, space and geodesy in the Munich conurbation. The Space Valley is made up of various research institutions of the Technical University (TU) Munich and established aerospace companies and forms a unique environment for networking and cooperation.

Munich’s metropolitan region as an innovation hub

The Faculty of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Geodesy (LRG) of the entrepreneurial TU Munich was founded in spring 2018. Geodesy describes the “science of measuring and mapping the earth’s surface”. The university’s research locations span from Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn to Munich, Oberpfaffenhofen to Garching and form a future-oriented research triangle. Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn forms the headquarters of the new faculty. Garching is home to the TU Munich’s research campus, Oberpfaffenhofen to the research airport and Munich to the TU Munich’s main campus.

Vision of the Space Valley

By networking the research locations in Space Valley, know-how is to be bundled and the vision of a high-tech region realised. Bavaria’s Minister-President Markus Söder has also pledged his full support to the innovation location and sees the potential for Space Valley to become the primary space location in Europe.

Bavaria’s new Silicon Valley for aerospace research

Inspired by Silicon Valley in California, the name “Space Valley” is intended to indicate an innovation location with a high level of exchange between research and industry. The proximity to aerospace companies and major international corporations already based here was a decisive factor in the new TU faculty’s decision to locate here. In recent years, more and more tech start-ups have also settled in the Munich Metropolitan Region, creating a unique environment for innovation and cutting-edge research. With Space Valley, the region benefits from dynamic symbioses between research institutions and established companies with the aim of unleashing a new scientific and economic force. Through the cooperations, students can apply their knowledge directly in practice and a space for networking is created.

A new campus for the faculty in Ottobrunn

The Faculty of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Geodesy at TU Munich has been part of the newly founded School of Engineering and Design since October 2021 and is set to become the largest faculty in the field of aeronautics and astronautics in Europe. Michael Klimke has been appointed as managing director of the new faculty. Especially the research location Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn as the headquarters of the department is predicted to have high potential. In the first quarter of 2022, the faculty will move into a newly rented 14,000 sqm property in Ottobrunn. The Ludwig Bölkow Campus being built there will be developed in cooperation with companies and research institutions located in Ottobrunn and will include a start-up centre in addition to laboratories and test halls. In the long term, a university campus for up to 4,000 students and over 50 professors and hundreds more employees is to be created there. The property is owned by the real estate joint venture Accumulata Real Estate  Group and Pamera Real Estate Partners.

However, the new campus also brings infrastructure challenges to Ottobrunn. The large number of new students and employees will need housing space and increase traffic in the area.

Strategic synergies of science and business in Space Valley

In addition to strategic synergies with start-ups, the Faculty of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Geodesy is already working with Airbus, the University of the German Armed Forces, Munich Aerospace, the German Aerospace Centre, Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft mbH and MTU Aero Engines AG, among others.

Alliances are also being created within Munich’s universities between the TU Munich, the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MSRM) and the Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS) in the field of aerospace research.

Mission of the Space Valley

The Space Valley’s initial mission is not to research other planets, but to explore the Earth. In particular, the acquisition of knowledge about our climate is a core objective. In the long term, new technologies are to be developed in Bavaria’s Space Valley that will enrich life on Earth.

Research areas and current projects in Space Valley

The Space Valley focuses on research areas of earth observation, communication and satellite technology, remote sensing and research on unmanned aerial vehicles.

In recent years, the TU Munich has participated several times in Elon Musk’s “SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition” and won four times in a row. In the process, the TU Munich student team built a Hyperloop capsule prototype and set a speed record of 482 km/h in the process. Hyperloop describes a high-speed train that travels through a tube at almost the speed of sound in a partial vacuum and is considered the transport system of the future. With a Hyperloop infrastructure, one could travel from Munich to Berlin in 40 minutes. Now the Faculty of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Geodesy is starting its own Hyperloop research programme and plans to install a test tube at the Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn site.

Furthermore, students in the interdisciplinary MOVE-III project at the TU Munich are researching space debris and tiny meteorite particles to better understand our Earth environment. Another project is working on aeroelastic wings for aircraft to make flying more efficient and thus cheaper and more environmentally friendly in the future. A start-up in Space Valley is currently working on developing an early warning system with nanosatellites to be able to detect forest fires earlier from space.

The global space industry is worth a total of 400 billion dollars and will continue to grow and gain in importance in the coming decades. The Space Valley in Bavaria offers the opportunity to be at the forefront of this dynamic future market.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

EUV laser and EUV lithography: definition, applications, examples

EUV laser and EUV lithography: definition, applications, examples

Due to the ever-increasing digitalisation, technology and the economy are dependent on constant progress. One of the most important areas is computer performance. Strong computer performance enables better autonomous driving, mobile devices or progress in the field of artificial intelligence. The challenge in improvement is to place more and more transistors on small chips.

How the innovative technology works

There are currently 10 billion transistors on small microchips in smartphones. These already have a million times the computing power of the computer used to land on the moon in 1969. In the early 1970s, microchips of the same size contained about 2000 transistors. Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors in chips would double every two years. In the following decades, it turned out that he was right. This law became known as “Moore’s Law”. Nevertheless, steps that lead to improvement become more and more complicated after a certain time in exponential progressions.

Microchips have been manufactured for 40 years using optical lithography technology. Structures of electronic components are transferred from a mask to a wafer made of silicon. The process is repeated about 100 times while different masks are used. The result is a three-dimensional structure of conductors and transistors. A sharp image of small structures depends on small wavelengths and large aperture angles of the optics.

In recent years, this process has reached its limits due to the increasing demands of technology and business. EUV lithography offers new opportunities and could push these limits, which is particularly interesting for the largest electrical companies in Germany. Put simply, an EUV lithography system consists of three essential components: A radiation source with residue protection and a collector, a wafer with photoresist and an imaging optics and mask. The new process uses other ranges of wavelengths and focuses on strong ultraviolet light as a radiation source. Ultraviolet is very short wavelength. In addition, the orientation on sophisticated optics and mirror systems enables the reproduction of tiny structures. The collector acts as a collection optic so that the radiation can be harnessed for the exposure process. The radiation is then reflected towards the lithography system. An ASLM system exposes more than 170 wafers per hour. The lacquer is precisely structured by an optical mask on wafers. This enables the creation of the finest structures with seven nanometres. The following comparison provides an illustration: the conventional system worked with wavebands of light of 193 nanometres, whereas EUV lithography works in the range of 13.5 nanometres. EUV lithography produces microchips that contain ten billion transistors but are only the size of a fingernail.

The technology is not only future-oriented and space-saving, but also energy-efficient. Compared to the older technology with a wavelength of 193 nanometres, the new process requires 50 percent less energy. Efficiency in terms of space utilisation has been improved by 40 percent.

Areas of application and examples of EUV lithography

Continuous development in the field of computer performance can guarantee that ever smaller and faster circuits are produced. Sectors such as the economy in particular benefit from more efficient manufacturing processes.

In road traffic, unpredictable and dangerous situations can quickly arise. In the long term, autonomous driving offers one possibility for improving safety. Here it is important that the software is not only able to brake and steer automatically. Programmes must be able to assess situations independently in order to act with foresight and recognise potential dangers. This kind of autonomous driving is not yet standard in today’s road traffic. However, EUV techniques are a promising way to permanently realise and improve such projects. Important for automated driving are cameras and sensors that help to evaluate situations. The environment is recorded and analysed in detail. New information is compared with a stored database to calculate an appropriate response. Improved microchips are able to create ever larger databases and process the large amount of information quickly. This improves reaction speed and accuracy.

EUV lasers enable modern smartphones and all the special functions they contain. Mobile phones have become increasingly secure against theft with the introduction of facial recognition. Various special features of the face are transmitted from the front camera to the smartphone, such as the distance from one eye to the other. The built-in programme compares the received data with the stored information and unlocks the mobile phone if the owner could be successfully identified. The fact that chips have become more and more powerful in recent years has contributed to the significant improvement of facial recognition. Similar software programmes are used at airports, for example.

In various service sectors, voice assistants and chatbots are used to simplify work. These artificial intelligences are used in customer service, for example. Programmes are offered on websites and can answer questions from consumers. If the software cannot find a suitable answer in the database, real employees are needed. EUV technology enables improved chatbots and AIs. Through improvements, programmes are able to recognise and correctly interpret possible ambiguous words. Even misspelled words can be correctly recognised and matched. Increased computing power enables ever larger databases that the AI can draw on to achieve better results.

Awarded the German Future Prize

On 25 November 2020 in Berlin, the winners of the Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2020 were announced. In an official ceremony, the winners of the project “EUV Lithography – New Light for the Digital Age” were honoured by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The team of experts led by Dr Peter Kürz, Dr Michael Kösters and Dr Sergiy Yulin was awarded the prize in the fields of technology and innovation.

The German Future Prize, one of the most important scientific awards in Germany, has been awarded since 1997. The focus is on honouring products that are ready for application in the fields of technology, engineering and natural science. When awarding the prize, the jury also focuses on the social and economic potential of the innovative projects. Only three teams and their innovations are selected each year.

Photo by Artem Bryzgalov on Unsplash

WHAT ARE E-INK FILMS? AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

WHAT ARE E-INK FILMS? AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Our world today is dominated by electrical engineering and digitalisation. The level of development of electronic devices is rising sharply. Whereas 25 years ago very few people had a mobile phone, today almost everyone has a high-tech computer in their pocket. This sharply rising trend in development is constantly generating new innovations and technological advances. Since every German household is equipped with an average of five to ten electronic screens, it is not surprising that research also continues in display technology and many interesting concepts are being developed and made marketable. In addition to conventional LED/LCD displays or displays with TN technology, e-ink displays, i.e. displays with “electronic ink”, have also been available for some time. These are also known as e-ink film or e-paper. What is behind this and how this technology works exactly is discussed in the following article.

How does E-Ink Film work?

The display technology E-Ink Film has been on the market for some time and is finding more and more applications due to its special technology. The technology got its name because it has a strong visual parallel to ink on paper. The most commonly used displays so far, such as LED/LCD or TN, rely on the idea that the surface consists of many individual pixels, each of which can display a single colour.
E-ink film, however, relies on an advanced system with an interesting chemical concept. The E-Ink screen consists of a layer with countless and tiny capsules. Each individual capsule is filled with particles. In black and white screens or greyscale displays, these capsules are filled only with black and white particles. For coloured display surfaces, the capsules are usually filled with particles of the colours magenta, yellow, cyan (turquoise) and white. These particles float in a clear liquid. The capsules are connected to transparent electrodes at the front and back. These individual particles are adjusted so that they can be moved by electrical charge. In this process, each colour has a different setting and the sequences of the coloured particles can be changed by electronic impulses.

Example:

In a greyscale display, the particles are set so that the black particles rise when there is a negative charge and the white particles rise when there is a positive charge. Each area of the display can receive different charges. Now, if the surface is to be completely white, then each capsule receives a positive charge. If an area is to display a black dot, then exactly this area receives a negative charge and turns black.
With e-ink films with coloured screens, the concept works the same way, except that the arrangement of the individual colour particles requires several charge states.

The advantages of e-ink film: power consumption

This type of display technology offers many advantages over traditional methods. The concept of displaying e-ink foils consumes much less power. This is because an e-ink display only requires power when a change in colour arrangement is initiated. Conventional LED displays use coloured light throughout. As a result, mobile devices with E-Ink film also have an exorbitant battery life. This characteristic means that there are wall murals with e-ink technology that do not consume any power at all as long as the image displayed on the wall is not changed.

The advantages of E-Ink film: Eye-friendliness

In addition, there are also strong advantages of e-ink displays over conventional display technologies in their interaction with the human eye. E-ink displays are much easier on the eyes. This is because the screen does not flicker, which is common with other display technologies. By reproducing the colour without light, the different capsules enable a static image that has a similar effect on the human eye as a picture on the wall or a written sheet of paper. This is of course an advantage for every user, but especially for people with visual impairments, these displays are a significant improvement.

It is also common knowledge that displays with LCD technology are dazzling in sunlight. In some cases, working in the open sun is simply impossible. When a device with e-ink technology is in use in sunlight, the readability is infinitely better.

Areas of application: E-book readers, information, work, automobiles.

These special features and advantages of e-ink technology have revolutionised some markets and have also created new markets. In principle, the areas of application for e-ink films are limitless, but the technology is gaining ground in some areas in particular.
The e-book reader market in particular has been revolutionised by e-ink. There were already e-book readers before the introduction of the e-ink film. However, these were equipped with LCD technology and were hardly able to achieve any significant breakthroughs. It was not until the middle of the 2010s, after the introduction of the e-ink film, that several new e-book readers appeared on the market. The reason for this was the fact that the new technology was able to make the disadvantages of the previous readers largely disappear and the concept of e-book readers became interesting again for the end consumer.Many display boards are also still operated with conventional display technologies today. These can be advertising boards in city spaces or information boards at airports. The savings in electricity by converting the technology to e-ink film could also revolutionise this market.Furthermore, devices with e-ink technology can also be used excellently for work in addition to reading. Here, too, the focus is on the advantages of e-ink foil. Thanks to the eye-friendly display, work can be done over a long period of time without tiring or straining the eyes.Last but not least, E-Ink Film is also being used more and more in design terms. The car manufacturer BMW presented a new model of the BMW iX at the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas in January 2022. Namely, the BMW iX Flow has a special feature. It can change the colour of the outer skin. In addition, colour gradients and patterns can also be created. BMW has thus succeeded in creating an innovation for luxury cars that sets new standards in design. E-ink foil is also used here. The entire body is covered with it. This allows the colour of the car to be changed at the touch of a button.

History of E-Ink Film

E-Ink has become the popular name for this technology. However, behind the name is actually the company that developed the film. The E-Ink Corporation was founded in 1997 by some researchers after the technology was developed by some scientists and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1996. With this patented technology, the E-Ink Corporation was able to enter the mainstream through the e-book reader boom in 2006 and was even inducted into the Hall of Fame for National Inventors in the US in 2016. Since then, E-Ink has improved and overhauled its technology many times. E-Ink now also equips devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones.

Source:E Ink 
Photo by @felipepelaquim on Unsplash
What is a data center – and why are they becoming relevant right now?

What is a data center – and why are they becoming relevant right now?

Data center is the name given to a facility that provides shared access to data and applications via a complex computing, storage and network structure. To ensure that the data is secure and highly available, there are industry standards that are also helpful for planning and maintaining data centers.

What is a data center?

In one form or another, data centers, also known as data centers, have been around since the advent of computers. In the days of room-sized behemoths, a data center might have consisted of a supercomputer. As the equipment got smaller and cheaper and requirements increased, more and more vendors began networking multiple servers together. This greatly increased processing power.

Today, these servers are connected to communications networks so that people can remotely access the information stored there. One room, one building, or several buildings often house multiple clustered servers with associated infrastructure. Modern data centers have hundreds or thousands of servers running around the clock. That’s why Europe’s largest data center investors are also very interested in the technologies.

Due to the high concentration of servers stacked in rows, these data centers are also called server farms. Data centers offer important such as:

+ data storage
+ Backup and recovery
+ networking
+ data management
+ network services

Data centers store and deliver entire websites. Servers provide services such as e-commerce, cloud storage, email, Instand messaging, online gaming, financial services and other applications.

Just about every company, organization, government agency or scientific research institution either needs its own data center or must rely on the services of a third-party provider. Some use a dedicated building for this purpose or use public cloud-based services, such as those offered by Amazon, Google or Microsoft. The data centers of large companies are often distributed around the world to ensure constant access to data.

Why we need data centers

Even as computer hardware gets smaller and more powerful, the need for computing power and storage of data continues to grow. Above a certain size, every business, government agency, research institution, social network, and organization requires tremendous computing power. A lack of fast and reliable data can result in the inability to deliver critical services and the loss of customer satisfaction and revenue.

All this data needs to be stored somewhere. That’s why more and more data is moving to the cloud so it doesn’t have to be stored on work computers. This data is then accessed via host servers, which is why many companies are also moving their professional applications to the cloud. This in turn reduces the cost of running their own servers and networks.

Types of data centers

Data centers vary in size. They range from small server rooms to centers geographically dispersed around the globe. Modern data centers have evolved from a local infrastructure. Today, local systems are connected to cloud infrastructures where networks, applications and workloads are virtualized in multiple private and public clouds. The following types of data centers are distinguished:

+ Co-location data centers – space and resources are provided by a provider to a customer. Administration is the responsibility of the customer.

+ Enterprise data centers – These data centers are used by individual companies for internal purposes.

+ Managed Service Data Centers – Services such as data storage, computing and other services are performed here directly for the customer.

+ Cloud data centers – These centers are globally distributed and are often offered to the customer with the help of an external managed service provider.

Scaling and design

When we think of a data center, we often imagine huge halls full of server racks blinking away. Miles of cables connect servers to routers, switches or other equipment. However, data centers come in all sizes and configurations. They range from a few servers in one room, to tens of thousands of servers in huge halls. Some are so large that employees use bicycles or electric scooters to get around.

Server configuration, network topology, and supporting infrastructure can vary widely depending on the company, purpose, location, growth rate, and initial data center design concept. The layout of a data center can greatly affect the efficiency of data flow and environmental conditions within the center. Some sites may group their servers by function, such as Web servers, database servers, or application servers and database servers. For others, each server may perform multiple tasks. There are no set rules or standards for this.

How data centers work

A basic physical unit of data centers are servers connected into clusters. Often these are of the same type, to be stacked in open or closed cabinets. However, sometimes there are different types, sizes or ages of servers. For example, modern, flat servers exist alongside old Unix computers and huge mainframes.

Each server is a high-performance computer, with memory, storage, a processor or processors, and input/output capability. Sort of like a personal computer, but with a faster and more powerful processor and much more memory. Monitors, keyboards, or other peripherals are located in a central location or in a separate control room from where the devices are monitored.

Networks, software and infrastructure

Networking and communications devices are necessary in a data center to maintain a high-bandwidth network for communication with the outside world and between servers and other devices within the data center. This includes components such as routers, switches, the servers’ network interface controllers (NICs) and potentially miles of cable. Cabling comes in several forms, including twisted pair (copper), coaxial (also copper ) and fiber (glass or plastic). Cable types and their various subtypes affect the speed at which information flows through the data center.

Other important data center equipment includes storage devices (such as hard disk drives, SSD drives and robotic tape drives), uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), backup batteries, backup generators and other power-related devices.

And, of course, software is needed to run all this hardware, including the various operating systems and applications that run on the servers, clustering framework software such as Google’s MapReduce or Hadoop to distribute work across hundreds or more machines, Internet socket programs control networks, system monitoring applications and virtualization software such as VMware to reduce the number of physical servers.

Virtual data centers

A virtual data center provides the capabilities of a traditional data center, but uses cloud-based resources instead of physical resources. It offers an organization the ability to provision additional infrastructure resources as needed without having to purchase, provision, configure and maintain physical appliances. In this way, enterprises can take advantage of the flexibility, scalability and cost savings of cloud computing.

Data center security

In addition to the building security systems that support a data center facility, communications networks require a thorough zero-trust analysis. Data center firewalls , data access controls, IPS , WAF and their modern equivalent Web Application & API Protection (WAAP) systems must be properly specified to ensure they scale as needed to meet data center network requirements.

Why data centers are becoming relevant

Data centers are the backbone of modern computing. They are the lifeline that keeps our digital world running. Data centers are far more secure than storing data on traditional hardware. Virtual data centers in the cloud offer better security protection through effective firewalls and similar devices, in addition to backup services.

Source: DataCenter 
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What is the new DeepMind language model Gopher?

What is the new DeepMind language model Gopher?

Language models that learn through artificial intelligence (AI) are the talk of the town. Usually, the performance and quality of these language models goes hand in hand with their size. The larger the model, the better the performance. However, larger models are more opaque. This is viewed critically by ethicists, since models become increasingly opaque with increasing model size and biases become increasingly difficult to detect. This leads to considerable ethical concerns. Gopher is a comparatively small language model that can look up information in a database and obtain its information from there. Gopher has been trained to be friendly and to conduct dialogue in a similar way to a human. Users can ask Gopher concrete questions and receive concrete answers, which are composed of information from the database. This allows Gopher, despite its smaller size, to keep up with the large models on the market while remaining flexible. Gopher’s knowledge can also be refreshed by updating the database without the need to re-train Gopher.

The developer company of Gopher, Deepmind, is not unknown in this context. The company was founded in 2010 and bought by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, in 2014. The company, which has its headquarters in London, has further centres in Canada, France and the United States. With Gopher, Deepmind has set a new milestone in the field of language models.

With 280 billion parameters, Gopher is not the largest language model, but it brings with it enormous potential through its linkage to the database. In the paper published by Deepmind, which is over 118 pages long, the company explains everything worth knowing about the language model and gives example conversations that describe the interactions between Gopher and the user. Users can ask the language model questions on any topic imaginable. It doesn’t matter whether users want to know about dinosaurs, the theory of relativity or the capital of the Czech Republic. Gopher has an answer for every question.

Gopher, like all larger language models, is a transformer. This means that Gopher learns itself (machine learning) and translates a sequence of characters into another sequence of characters. The model is trained to do this using sample data and thus learns how to work. Gopher was trained on 300 billion characters, but can draw on much larger amounts of knowledge because of the database. In total, the amount of data comprises 2.3 trillion characters and is thus many times larger than the amount of data used to train Gopher.

Gopher can be used for different areas and was tested and compared in 152 tasks by Deepmind after its development. The tasks ranged from fact checking to language modelling to answering various questions from users. In about 80 per cent of the tasks, Gopher was able to prevail over the competing language models compared, which included the well-known GPT-3 model.

The Deepmind model came out on top, especially in conversation, where it showed a high degree of consistency. Natural conversation is often a problem with language models that rely on artificial intelligence. Although the models are able to form individual, grammatically correct sentences, they have difficulty establishing a context over an entire section or text. This is important for a fluent conversation, however, and is one of the major challenges in the development of artificial language models.

One reason for Gopher’s good performance is its connection to the database. Here, Gopher’s database is used like a kind of cheat sheet or reference book. This database is used by Gopher to search for passages with similar language, which thus increases the prediction and accuracy of the model. Deepmind calls the technology of the model “Retro” (Retrieval-Enhanced Transformer). Translated into German, this means something like a transformer enhanced by lookup capabilities. Through this technology, Gopher is able to compete with language models that are 25 times larger.

Although Gopher is convincing in many areas and leaves its competitors behind, this AI, just like other language models, has to struggle with the similar ethical issues. However, due to the link with the database, Gopher is to be evaluated differently from an ethical point of view than comparable language models without a database. Gopher makes transparent which sections of the database were used for the predictions. This can help to explain the results and at the same time leads to the fact that Gopher is not a pure black box. Furthermore, distorting influences (bias) can be changed directly in the database and thus eliminated.

The fact that the language model, although a rather small model, usually outperformed its competitors in the tests raises the question of how good large language models with a connection to a database could be. However, these are not currently on the market and would have to be tested from an ethical perspective, in addition to development.

At the moment, however, Gopher is the most efficient language model, judging by Deepmind’s data, which can learn through changes in the database without having to be completely retrained.

Source: Deepmind
Wood hybrid construction: Definition, examples, advantages

Wood hybrid construction: Definition, examples, advantages

Wood as a building material has been used by humans for house construction since the beginning of time. Wood is easy to work with and lives with its conditions. Wooden houses have an incomparable charm and are sought-after residential properties. However, pure timber construction is limited in its permissible dimensions, up to five storeys are approved. Anything higher becomes problematic for timber construction. The reasons for this lie in the fire protection regulations and in the statics. Since 2008, however, there has been an intelligent and innovative solution for new buildings with six or more storeys. The hybrid construction method combines wood with different materials such as steel, concrete, aluminium and gypsum fibre boards. Long live “cooperation”, even among materials!

Good reasons for the material mix

However, the legal approval for a building is not the only reason for the preferred hybrid construction method. It is the economic advantages in the construction of the house that convince builders and architects. Wood is a popular building material that is very easy to work with. In combination with reinforced concrete, it can become even more load-bearing. The structural engineer still recommends the use of concrete for the ceilings and the foundation, but in the future he will be able to resort more and more to mixtures of materials, since top technical achievements in the development of prefabricated timber elements make new constructions possible. But it is not only the mixture of wood and concrete that has given rise to ultra-modern buildings in recent years; the innovative production of the wood-processing industry also helps to make wood stable at heights. The material then bears names such as cross laminated timber or solid structural timber. It is characterised by special material properties. Another advantage of the combined construction method is the time factor. The construction phase is shortened by prefabrication. However, it must be fairly noted that the planning group requires more time in advance. In any case, hybrid building with wood is environmentally conscious. After all, the use of this material saves sand as a valuable raw material. In terms of the required sound insulation values and a precision in the manufacture of certain components, the timber hybrid construction method is also advantageous. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has already been proven. Finally, the indoor climate and the feel-good aspect should be mentioned, important criteria for the occupants.

Living examples

The timber hybrid construction method now has a large number of living examples. They can be found all over the world. For example, in Vienna, 24 storeys high means just under 85 metres, in Norway, one and a half metres higher than in Vienna and this is also considered the tallest timber hybrid building in the world. It was opened in 2019. In the same year, the residential buildings in Berlin-Adlershof were completed. Three years earlier there was already a successful project in Canada, a student residence made of wooden elements, and in 2021 Pforzheim stands with its proud 45 metres. The timber hybrid construction is not only an innovative alternative to conventional styles, but this form of construction is reminiscent of a natural way of life, gives the residents a positive feeling with regard to the future, as sustainable management is practised and the conscience is in harmony with the experience. Living with wood corresponds to the ideas of the environmentally conscious citizen, as this building material consumes far less energy for its production than steel does. That is why many project developers in Germany are also looking at this new type of living concept.

Mixture – but how?

The wood is usually used for the building envelope, the concrete gives stability to the ceilings and the lift shaft. In some projects, wood-concrete composite ceilings are also used. The load-bearing wooden parts are stiffened with steel or clad with gypsum fibreboard. Sometimes the façade is supported with rock wool and the staircase is made of reinforced concrete. Concrete is also used for the technical lines and the entire supply core, making this sensitive area fireproof. The basement and the garage are mostly made of concrete. Since wooden cladding is chosen for the façade, the observer has the impression that the structure is purely a wooden house. And the appearance of the interiors is also reminiscent of pure timber construction. Which building material is used where in a building is not specified by building law; it is up to the expertise of the architect and the imagination and wallet of the builder.

Economical – but why?

Carbon dioxide is saved by the ton, on the one hand during production, but also because wood itself stores carbon dioxide. Cost savings through precise pre-construction, improved air-conditioning technology and fast production make this construction method promising for the future. A shortened construction phase means relief for everyone involved. A number of buildings constructed using timber hybrid construction methods count as energy-efficient houses and may be eligible for bank subsidies. Building with wood and concrete or aluminium also has another positive effect. Because there is less dust and noise during the construction phase, this construction method is becoming more and more popular. The low dead weight of wood means that a lot of heavy machinery is no longer needed, and flexibility in the way it works allows for changes in plans and construction. Wood-concrete composite ceilings, for example, can be deconstructed. Savings through timber frame constructions lead to a larger gross floor area and, on balance, this often means one more flat. And the flats created by timber hybrid construction remain affordable for all residents.

Source: BaustoffWissen  

Photo by Linus Mimietz on Unsplash