The US artificial intelligence (AI) tearaway Nvidia is now worth $US2.1 trillion – just behind Apple’s world-leading $US2.6 trillion worth.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the most local AI fast follower continues, with investors flocking to a $1.3 billion capital raising from data centre operator Next DC (ASX:NXT), which is expanding its facilities to cope with the AI capacity demands.

With a $9.3 billion market cap, Next DC is well discovered – so what else is out there?

Many investors are convinced the $140 million market cap Archer Materials (ASX:AXE) has the right stuff – but the story may go over the heads of investors who think the world’s biggest chip maker is McDonald’s.

Archer recently announced it had built “an integrated pulsed electron spin resonance microsystem on a chip to detect and analyse materials for important signs of quantum electron spin manipulation at a very small scale.”

If that one comes up at a party, nod your head and change the topic. In plain English, it’s about faster and more capacious chips to cope with the AI demands and tapping quantum mechanics to do so.

Archer is developing two semiconductors, the 12CQ and Biochip.

A teeny ‘lab on chip’ Biochip promises the early detection of multiple diseases.

12CQ is not a Star Wars droid, but the pulsed electron spin resonance microsystem that paves the way for computing capacity that could solve many of the world’s knottiest problems (or possibly create some more).

“We are one of few companies globally developing this type of quant tech, probably one of only 20 in the world,” Archer CEO Mohammad Choucair says.

“Our goal ultimately is to make quantum technology more accessible, but technical challenges must be overcome.”

Weebit Nano (ASX:WBT) is closer to commercialisation with its next breed of nanochips with faster processing capacity.

The Israeli-based, ASX-listed outfit is perfecting memory devices that will replace so-called embedded flash.

“It’s a very exciting time to be in semiconductors because everything in the world depends on them,” CEO Coby Hanoch says.

Weebit claims its resistive random access memory (Reram) chip is up to 100 times faster, more energy efficient and lower cost than flash, with better endurance.

Hanoch says most devices and appliances run on non-volatile memory such as flash, which means memory is retained when they are turned off.

“Because flash has been around for so long it has been hitting a lot of walls and is too slow and power hungry.”

Valued at a weighty $580 million – albeit 38 per cent less than a year ago – Weebit has raised eyebrows because of governance issues, including the circumstances of a director resignation that left the company without the requisite two local board members.

While the company has cash of $72 million, it burnt through $12m in the December quarter.
Hanoch says Weebit is negotiating agreements with some of the top 10 foundries (chip factories), opening the way for royalties. These include DB HiTek, which in turn has heavyweight customers including Sony, Toshiba Intel and Samsung.

“The goal is this year to be able to announce one to three agreements with some of these big guys,” Hanoch says.

If hypersonic-speed nano chips are all too much to fathom, broker JP Morgan mounts the case for old-fashioned providers of power grids and associated equipment.

After all, AI and hypercomputing require enormous amounts of electricity and someone needs to move these electrons.

Shares in Tawain’s Fortune Electric and South Korea’s Hyundai Electric Co have surged 177 per cent and 166 per cent respectively, year to date.

Both make electrical gee-gaws such as transformers.

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