Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download

uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

Dr. Patrick Ruther is a research assistant at the Laboratory for Micro- system Materials. He ­studied physics at the ­University of Constance and earned his doctorate in mechanical engineering in Karlsruhe. He served as technological coordinator of the European Union- funded project Neuro- Probes and has continued this research focus at the Laboratory for Microsystem Materials since the project ended. Besides neural tools, he works with new production techniques for microsystems and ­sensors that can measure force and torque. Prof. Dr. Oliver Paul is professor for materials of microsystems engineering at the Faculty of Engineer- ing of the University of Freiburg. He studied phys- ics at the ETH Zurich, where he earned his doc- torate with a dissertation on surface magnetism. ­Following stations at the Fraunhofer Institute for ­Solar Energy Systems and the ETH Zurich, where he worked on highly efficient silicon solar cells, silicon technology for microsys- tems engineering, and physical microsensor tech- nology, he was offered a chair at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) of the University of Freiburg in 1998. He served as academic dean of IMTEK from 1998 until 2002 and as director of the department from 2006 until 2008. He currently serves as academic director of ­IMTEK’s central technology center. Cambridge, for example, is using them to inves- tigate the development of addiction and impulsiv- ity. Scientists in Freiburg are studying how and where in the brain epilepsy develops. “We have to make measurements in different areas of the brain and adapt our probes to their dimensions,” says Paul. This can mean varying the amount and length of the shafts or the number of elec- trodes affixed to them. In the end, the suppliers cannot afford to be even a hair’s breadth off with their product. Along with the faculties of biology and medi- cine as well as the Department of Computer Sci- ence, the Department of Microsystems Engineer- ing is in the running for the second round of the Excellence Initiative with the research cluster “BrainLinks – BrainTools.” Oliver Paul and his col- leagues Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Egert will function as the team coordina- tors. Their vision is to control nerve signals to the point where visual or aural prostheses, artificial limbs, or speaking aids can be made to communi- cate directly with the brain and perform more and more sophisticated tasks. Controlling machines with thoughts – that, as Oliver Paul admits, is a task that “will require close ethical supervision.” This nine-millimeter-long probe registers electric current between nerve cells with electrodes and passes the signals along the shaft on conductor paths. Image: IMTEK/Ruther. 7