Where no chip has gone before

时间:2019-03-08 01:16:23166网络整理admin

By Jonathan Knight MOTOROLA has become the first major chip maker to commit itself to making biochips. The company plans to start by building a blood analyser based on a biochip. And it says that it will eventually produce hand-held machines that can perform genetic tests or detect disease—perhaps a small step towards the disease-sensing “tricorders” of Star Trek. Motorola is one of the leading producers of semiconductor devices. Its processors power Apple Macintosh computers and it is the world’s largest manufacturer of silicon micromachines, such as airbag sensors. Now it aims to develop biochips in which all functions, whether they are electronic or biological, are integrated on a single sliver of silicon, says Nicholas Naclerio, the director of the company’s new BioChip Systems Unit in Phoenix, Arizona. Naclerio says his division will make improved versions of the DNA “microarrays” that can rapidly spot mutations or reveal which genes are active (“Speed freaks”, New Scientist, 14 November 1998, p 46). Such devices are already available, but they are relatively large, test for only a few thousand genes and must be read using bulky laser scanners. Motorola plans to merge detection and readout on a single chip, says Naclerio. Later, he adds,