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Archer Materials developing a biochip one-billionth of a metre long to help detect respiratory disease

Archer Materials Ltd (ASX:AXE) (OTCMKTS:ARRXF) (FRA:38A) has begun developing biochip components that are less than 10 nanometres in size – for reference, the average human hair is around 75,000 nanometres wide. The biochip, also known as a lab-on-a-chip, is designed to integrate several biological laboratory functions on a single chip, including sensors for better medical diagnostics. Archer hopes the biochips will address the complex detection of diseases affecting the respiratory system, the world’s most deadly communicable diseases. To that end, the company has begun miniaturising key biosensor components to nanoscale chip formats on silicon wafers, opening the potential to host more than one million sensor components on the centimetre-sized wafers. World-leading fabrication Archer CEO Dr Mohammad Choucair said the company’s access to state-of-the-art technology put it at the absolute forefront of nanofabrication technology. “We have progressed to one of the most advanced forms of nanofabrication after recently translating biosensor components onto silicon wafers and we are expanding on this strength with in-house capability to build a robust biochip IP portfolio,” he said. “This is key to Archer’s long-term growth and near-term speed of execution in its deep tech development. “Best-in-class capabilities in nanofabrication is a global competitive advantage in the multi-billion-dollar point of care medical diagnostics industry. “One of the reasons why there are few companies in the world developing and commercialising biochips is because it’s difficult to achieve precision engineering at the nanoscale.” Nanoscale engineering The development of the biochip is taking place at the University of Sydney’s Research and Prototype Foundry, which offers instruments for the fabrication of devices and structures with features on the micro and nanoscale, with specialised processes allowing users to make devices and prototype new ideas. Archer staff members are on-site and have been trained to directly utilise the multi-million-dollar Elionix ELS-125 electron-beam lithography system and associated instrumentation ‘E-beam’. Staff will use the E-beam to create sub-10 nm features for its prototype biochip devices,  overcoming significant barriers to entry, including pattern design and process optimisation, for on-chip fabrication of biosensor components. In the above picture, the vertical circular tower is where the E-beam is located, while the chip is introduced through the load lock, the rectangular area with the protruding rod. Sensitive technology Archer is one of very few listed companies with access to such sensitive technology, which allows for manufacture on such small scales. The company’s biochip design principles use proprietary graphene-based materials in integrated circuits to form the key sensing elements in its biochip technology. Shares have been almost 4% higher this morning to A$0.935 while Archer’s market cap is approximately A$192.1 million. – Daniel Paproth

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