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Infineon develops biochip for protein testing

Infineon Technologies has developed an electronic biochip that combines biochemical test cells with electronic circuitry on a single silicon chip.

The device, the first of its kind, will make testing of proteins and nucleic acids simpler and cheaper than current optical analysis techniques, Infineon said.

Laboratory tests of prototype biochips are expected to begin in early 2003.

The test biochips contain 128 separate "wells" measuring 100 microns in diameter, each of which can be set up to perform a specific biochemical test. Depending on the substances being tested, a characteristic electrical current is generated in each well, which sensors transmit to the electronic circuits on the biochip for analysis.

The timeline and intensity of the electrical current from each well identifies the composition and concentration of the tested substance.

The electronic portion of the chip is based on standard CMOS technology, while the biochemical part of the chip is made of gold sensor electrodes integrated onto the chip. The ability to attach these gold electrodes without affecting the CMOS structure is the key technology breakthrough, Infineon said.

With this advance, standard CMOS production methods can be used to produce biochips with built-in analysis capability. Infineon claimed that the biochips would therefore make medical diagnosis less costly, faster, and more efficient.

In the long-term, biochips could be used in more sophisticated applications, such as determining whether or not a patient has adverse reactions to a medication.

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