Jean-Lou Chameau, president of the California Institute of Technology, and Laurent Malier, CEO of CEA-Leti, announce the launch of Analytical Pixels (APIX), the first startup to emerge from their Alliance for Nanosystems VLSI.
APIX will design, manufacture, and bring to market analysis systems based on a new concept of miniaturized chromatography. By applying microelectronic technologies developed at CEA-Leti and Caltech, the founders of APIX created a new way to implement gas chromatography. It is based on Nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) sensors. Building on this initial breakthrough, Leti and Caltech added significant new techniques in the field of components, electronics, and algorithms that led to the development of prototypes that are small, accurate, and fast.
Targeted applications include gas analysis for industrial processing in the petrochemical and natural gas distribution industries and analysis of ambient air quality. APIX, which is based in Paris, in the future also will target medical applications such as health screening through the analysis of biomarkers in a patient’s breath.
Caltech’s Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI) in Pasadena, Calif., and CEA-Leti formed the Alliance for Nanosystems VLSI (very large-scale-integration) in 2007 to realize the oft-cited potential of nanoscale systems. To date, very few beachheads have been attained in the domain of active nanosystems, largely due to the monumental challenge of merging the separate methodologies of nanoscale bio/chemical sensor-device fabrication and state-of-the-art, foundry-scale microelectronics processing.
Transforming Prototypes into Robust Systems
Leti researchers have been collaborating with Caltech/KNI scientists to transform academic, nanotechnology-based prototypes into robust, complex sensing systems. The initial focus of the alliance has been on large-scale integration of bio/chemical sensors. This involves developing proven academic nanoscale methodologies into well-validated microelectronic foundry processes at the wafer scale. The effort involves researchers working in the areas of chemical functionalization, NEMS device physics, sensor-array architectures, integrated microfluidics, multiplexed multichannel electronic readout systems, and informatics-based signature detection algorithms.
“This first industrial initiative from the alliance is proof that the transatlantic cooperation, built on the partners’ unity, has been essential in accelerating the maturation of scientific concepts initially elaborated in Caltech laboratories and adapted by Leti to meet large-scale, low-cost manufacturing requirements,” said Dr. Chameau.
Malier cited the strong, innovative approach developed by the alliance between Caltech and CEA-Leti, which ranges from research to technology transfer.
“Its efficiency is proven through the joint creation of APIX. The disruptive approach supporting APIX opens the way to new products in various sectors,” he said. ”The Carnot program has strongly helped and supported the development of the technology and the cooperation."
The creation of Analytical Pixels will further advance the alliance’s contributions in the field of gas sensing and will enable its research teams to explore other opportunities in the field of NEMS-based mass-spectrometry systems, nano-enabled measurement at the single-cell level, with nano-instrumentation focused on enabling transformational advances in medicine.