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Major Milestone For High Tech Company

Major Milestone For High Tech Company

A Christchurch based high-tech company has taken more than 20 years of research and development and unveiled the pre-production version of its ultra-sensitive detection machine, which is already attracting international attention.

Syft Technologies has developed world first super-sensitive technology that acts like a “seventh sense” and detects smells and flavours in the smallest possible quantities – as low as parts per trillion. And it does so in a blisteringly fast way that could save lives, money and environments.

The company was formed to commercialise real-time, high sensitivity Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) analysis technology that scientists at the University of Canterbury had been working on since 1981.

Syft Technologies is a joint venture between Canterprise (the University’s commercial centre) and Breathe Technologies Limited, which has a pool of local investors.

The SIFT-MS (Selected Ion Flow Tube – Mass Spectrometry) detection machine is currently known as the “ic100.”

“The new machine is now ready for pre-production testing and calibration,” says Syft Technologies Chief Operations Officer, Geoff Peck.

The machine detects tiny quantities of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The identification of VOCs has a wide variety of potential uses including medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, border security, leaky building syndrome, industrial process control and in hydrocarbon exploration. The new third-generation pre-production machine is about the size of a domestic dishwasher. This compares with the first generation machine (affectionately dubbed Big Bertha), which is based at the University of Canterbury and required 40 cubic meters of space, weighed more than 5 tons and filled most of a room. The second-generation machine was about 2 meters long and 1.5m high. [Photos of Big Bertha and the ic100 are attached]

“Not only is the third generation machine much smaller than previous versions, continued refinement of the technology has also made it more sensitive as well as operationally robust,” says Mr Peck.

Syft’s primary focus over the next few months will be to test and calibrate the new machine and develop markets both in New Zealand and overseas. There is already interest from international companies, particularly in the US.

“We have done the scientific work on how to use the detection and quantification of specific volatile organic compounds for a variety of applications. Now we want to package what is quite revolutionary technology into a machine that can compete globally.”

Some specific potential applications include the detection of bacteria in blood, detection of drugs and biosecurity hazards in shipping containers, for general environmental services, detection of fungal growths in buildings (leaky building syndrome) and as an “online” monitoring tool for advanced industrial process control.

“At present, much of this detection work is done using GCMS technology, which is slow, expensive, and complicated compared with detecting VOCs with the Syft ic100.”

The worldwide market in GCMS equipment is worth about $10 billion a year.

“Syft’s technology platform currently has no direct competitors and has the potential to capture at least part of this market if it can successfully commercialise the generation three machine. It could also open up a number of new, previously untouched markets. This represents a major opportunity for the Canterbury technology industry, as the benefits from a successful commercialisation could spread throughout the local technology industry,” says Chairman of the Syft Board, Stephen Collins.

“As an investor, this was one opportunity I wasn’t prepared to miss.”

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