The Scare Witch Project

With Halloween upon us some of the ghastly ghouls from our production team were working on a secret spooky project utilising our Imaging Station and the DC95 controller.

The 'Jack-O-Linkam' was carved from a pumpkin with the precision that can only be achieved by a team of Linkam hotstage engineers.  They worked deep into the night until their evil creation was finished.  Surrounded by a mysterious mist of liquid nitrogen they powered the monster using the DC95 controller...at last, it was alive.

It started off as an innocent joke.  Just something to give a bit of a fright to a few Linkam witches…but it quickly got out of hand…

Posted by Ricky Patel

 

Directional Crystallization Using a Thermal Gradient

Electroluminescent displays, lighting (organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), circuits on flexible substrates, and photovoltaic cells are all applications of organic electronics that rely on industrial organic semiconductors (OSC).

The Linkam GS350 Stage in the Université Libre de Bruxelles laboratoryDue to a fundamental lack of the understanding of how molecular structure and supramolecular organization affects optoelectronic properties Prof. Yves Henri Geerts and his colleagues at Université Libre de Bruxelles have undertaken a study of single crystal thin films of Terthiophene by directional crystallization by means of a thermal gradient using the Linkam GS350 stage.

Optoelectronic properties can also be affected by the method of fabrication, therefore determining a method to control deposition and crystallisation is important.

As part of his research Prof. Yves Henri Geerts used polarized optical microscopy (POM) and X-ray diffraction to characterise the shape, size, and orientation (in and out of the plane of the substrate) of the crystals produced by the thermal gradient technique.

A sample of Terthiophene was placed on a cover slip on the hot side of the stage and is slowly translated to the cold side at a constant speed until all the sample is on the cold side.

The cover slip and sample are slowly translated from the hot side to the cold side at a constant speed.One side is above the melting temperature (hot side) and the other at a temperature below the crystallization temperature (cold side).

The conclusion of the experiment was that temperature gradients could potentially be used to control crystal growth and these conditions induce a preferential fast growth direction perpendicular to the gradient direction. In addition it is found that nucleation and growth can be decoupled for OSC crystallizing from the melt in a temperature gradient and that these conditions lead to the generation of highly textured thin films with uniaxial in-plane orientation of crystallites.

By Caroline Feltham

Advancing Medical Research with the TST350

Test cells subjected to cyclic stress for 7 days on the TST350

Tendons are susceptible to injury or tendinopathies due to many stressors including age, body weight, nutrition, excessive loading or forces, poor training techniques and environmental conditions. Tendons connect muscle to bone and passively modulate forces during locomotion to provide additional stability by their ability to stretch under tension.

Healthy tendons are composed of parallel collagen molecules which form fibrils. These fibrils then assemble into fascicles, which in turn make up the tendon fibre. The orientation of the collagen molecules is important because it is this alignment that gives the tendon its mechanical properties such as tensile strength.

At the University of Liverpool Senior Research Assistant, Dr Caroline Smith and her colleagues are working to advance the treatment of tendon injuries by using a Linkam TST350 stage.

To understand the development of orientated collagen under stress Dr. Smith is using the optical technique of reflection anisotropy spectroscopy to study mouse fibroblast cells subjected to regular uniaxial stress.

Mouse fibroblast cells were cultured on specially designed small wells fabricated from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and were subjected to cyclic stress for 7 days. After this the cells could be investigated under the microscope.PDMS wells used to test mouse fibroblast cells

There are many conflicting opinions on how best to heal a tendon injury, and when is a tendon healed sufficiently to begin exercising it. This is crucial in accident rehabilitation as currently a severe injury can end a sportspersons career.  

This is an ongoing topic of research where developments are occurring every day. Our new stage has helped scientists push forward medical research and has opened up a whole new way of looking at how the collagen cells react to mechanical stress.

By Caroline Feltham

 

25th Meeting of the Polymer Physics group -University of Surrey

On the 12th and 13th of September, I attended Physical Aspects of Polymer Science Conference. The conference was highly anticipated as it was the 25th meeting of the Polymer Physics group. And there was added excitement for me as it was held at the University of Surrey in the UK. This was the institution from which I earned my degree.

The conference itself consisted of fascinating oral presentations, vibrant poster sessions and an awards evening that celebrated the finest work carried out on polymer physics in the previous 12 months. All of the above, combined with the beautiful surroundings of one of the most picturesque universities that the UK has to offer, made for a very memorable two days for all that took part.

Our TST350 (Tensile Stress Testing Stage) and CSS450 (Optical Rheology Stage) were of great interest to the delegates at the conference. For most of these delegates, it was their first experience of these stages and I am glad to say that they were impressed with the capabilities of both pieces of equipment and their potential in this field.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days and I would like to thank everybody at the Institute of Physics who put on such a fantastic event.

Posted by Ricky Patel 

A Warm Stage Controller even Apple can be proud of...

We take design very seriously at Linkam.  We don't stop at ensuring that our products excede our users expectations in terms of technical specifications.  We want to deliver a bit of WOW when they open the box.

When it comes to our electronics, we don't just get it working and then throw the bits in any old off the shelf third party box then slap our logo on it.  We consider many factors including, how much space it takes up on a likely already crowded lab bench? How quick and easy it is to set up?  How easy is it to clean spilled solutions?  How simple is it to remove a failed component in the field so that users in obscure locations can repair on site?  How can we ensure that the materials can be recycled at the end of the instruments lifecycle?  How can we ensure that it complies with all the many criteria for low voltage directives necessary for the unit to be used in almost any lab environment anywhere in the world?

When we've answered all of those questions, we still don't let it go into production until we are all satisfied that we've answered the last unmeasurable design challenge.  Do we really like the look and feel of it?

Take a look at the new DC95 Warm stage controller.  Even better temperature control and performance with compact dimensions of just 160 x 104mm and 25mm thick controlled by an in built touch screen display.  Just a warm stage controller? No, I suggest it's quite a bit more.

Posted by Vince Kamp

ECROFI XXI - Fluid Inclusions and Hotstages in Leoben

 We like going to smaller conferences that focus on a specific area of research for a few reasons. Everybody seems to know each other and they are all pretty enthusiastic about their work and looking forward to tell everyone else about it.  It makes for a good atmosphere and it is much more likely that they will come and have a look at our stuff and let us know what they think.

The other reason is these conferences can be in some pretty cool places.  The sorts of towns you might never come across.

The ECROFI (European Current Research On Fluid Inclusions) conference this year was held in Leoben, Austria, hosted by the University of Leoben.  A flight to Vienna followed by a wonderful train ride through some spectacular low mountain scenery lands you in a beautiful small town with nearly a 1000 years of history.  

Leoben is an iron mining town and known as the gateway to the Styrian iron road.  The main square, 'Hauptplatz', is surrounded by lovely baroque facade buildings with a beautiful 16th century church and an intriguing restaurant, Arkadenhof Schwarzer Adler, (there since 1550 I think?) serving all manner of Austrian delectables - mainly schnitzel of various varieties and shapes.  There are also many delightful cafes, although why nearly all of them displayed inch thick  menus of bizarre icecream sundae concotions featuring such oddities as spaghetti and pistacio sundae will remain a mystery.

Fluid inclusion geologists are a great bunch, my Dad seems to think their upbeat relaxed outlook is because they always manage to find remote exotic locations to perform their research.  It's hard to argue with that, the sterile lighting of most labs is not conducive to a cheery demeanor.  However, I wonder if it could it be the geologists relationship with good beer which was served everday of the conference at 4:30pm courtesy of the conferences main sponsor The local Gosser Brewery....delicious and refreshing it was to.

Nearly all of the conferees already have one or two of our stages, either the THMSG600 (arguably the most successful geology stage of all time), MDSG600 (motorized geology stage) or high temperature TS1500, but we had a couple of interesting new products to showcase.

The CAP500 stage has been developed in collaboration with Prof Jean Dubessy at the University of Nancy and Prof I-Ming Chou at USGS in order to study synthetic fluid inclusions in capillaries relative to temperature and pressure.

 

 

 

 

The TS1400XY developed with Prof Bob Bodnar's group at Virginia Tech to investigate high temperature melt inclusions and quench cooling.  (You can read an earlier blog post on this here.)

The next meeting of the fluid inclusion geologists is PACROFI and is hosted by The University of Windsor in Canada.

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to Ronald Bakker and the organizing comittee at ECROFI for all your help and giving us the opportunity to show off our equipment.

Posted by Vince Kamp

Raman Microscopy with Bruker and Linkam

Linkam LTS420 Heating Stage on the Bruker Senterra RamanLast week, Linkam were given an opportunity to meet with some of the team at Bruker Scientific at their state of the art facility just outside Coventry in the UK.

During the visit, we had a hands-on session with one of the leading pieces of equipment in the Raman Spectroscopy field – the Senterra Raman Microscope. The Senterra integrates a multi laser Raman spectrometer with a confocal microscope. This can be used in various analytical and research applications, including; Pharmaceuticals, Forensics, Art Conservation and Mineralology just to name a few. These applications can be carried out under an accurate temperature controlled environment by combining the Senterra with various Linkam heating stages.  

We would like to thank the Paul Turner, Owen Wilkin, Trevor Todd and Colin Barrow at Bruker for their great hospitality during the visit.

Ricky Patel

London to Brighton

Team Linkam relax after their gruelling test with traditional fish, chips and beer. Many Thanks to Matt Hayward for taking the photos.

Not content with mastering high speed karting a couple of months ago, the Linkam transport enthusiasts decided to enter the more physical world of cycling. So after several weeks of training over the local Downs the team met up on Father’s Day – the only day of the year when most of us can usually get away with doing very little. 

Not this time though; instead, ‘Team Linkam’ met up on Clapham Common at 6:00am on Sunday 19th June 2011 to participate in the 50th anniversary London to Brighton bike ride. Water bottles were filled, energy bars were packed and final adjustments  made to the bikes. Vince Kamp had managed to source and helped design our very own Linkam cycling kit which was, needless to say, excellent quality, comfortable and  looked amazing!

Bleary eyed but raring to go, 13 of us set out on our 54 mile venture at 6:30am.  Over 27,000 people took part in the charity ride, a real experience cycling with so many people around us especially when it came to the hills.

The months of training were paying off as we were making good time towards Brighton. The rain held off and before we knew it, we were approaching the feared Ditchling Beacon – the third highest point of the South Downs! Well done to those who made it up without walking.  As we reached the top of Ditchling Beacon, we knew we had 6 miles left which was mostly downhill. We breezed into Brighton and rode down the famous Madeira Drive and across the finish line. Most of us finished the ride in around 5 hours but there were a few professionals who made it at faster pace.

All in all, it was a fantastic day and huge congratulations to ‘Team Linkam’, and a big thank you to everyone who sponsored us.

See you next year!

Jim Hayward/Paul Simmons

Correlative Microscopy at Leiden University Medical Centre

A researcher at LUMC using the THMS600 to look at fluorescently labelled bacteria at liquid nitrogen temperature for correlative light electron microscopy

Professor A.J. Koster and his team at Leiden University Medical Centre are using the THMS600 in a correlative light and electron microscopy setup, to aid the cryo-study of biological specimens.

His group focuses on applications in cell biology, including the study of viral infections and viral replication where fluorescence may be used to pinpoint areas worthy of enhanced investigation. Also of particular interest is the field of vascular biology and the mechanism via which vascular endothelial cells initiate repair in response to injury and inflammation.

His goal is to localize molecular structures in cells using fluorescence microscopy and then transfer the sample to a cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) set up to image the corresponding macromolecular structures in 3D with nm-scale resolution.

The group wanted a cryo-FM sestup that was easy to implement and selected the THMS600 heating and freezing stage which was modified in order to accommodate EM support grids.

Professor Koster says, “before we found the Linkam system in the literature and the ability to correlate microscopies, combining modalities was next to impossible. We have now been using this cryo-CLEM method for more than three years. It has certainly enabled us to produce results quickly and hence get to publication more rapidly too.” (European Journal of Cell Biology 88 (2009) 669–684). 

Posted by Rosie Hider

Could the TS1400XY have helped stop the European air-travel chaos?

Rosario Esposito of the Bodnar Group at VTU using the Linkam TS1400XY to study silicate melt inclusions

The world renowned Bodnar group at Virginia Tech University have recently been carrying out some high profile fluid research studies using our Linkam TS14000XY Stage.

The research group used this stage to compile various studies on volcanic melt inclusions, which related to the properties, distribution and the role of volcanic fluids in and on the earth. One of the major aims being to gain a better understanding as to how volcanoes erupt.

The studies showed that the content of the liquid magma below the surface of the volcano is of paramount importance as it determines the energy of the volcanic eruption. It was shown that magmas with high levels of volatile gases tend to produce explosive eruptions like the ones in Iceland, spewing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere and causing air travel chaos. On the other hand magmas with lower volatile content produce relatively placid lava flows like those in Hawaii. Information of this kind is of vital importance in predicting the style and severity of future eruptions, which will enable experts to have an increase in risk assessment of active volcanoes.

Many thanks to Professor Bob Bodnar and all of his team at Virginia Tech for sharing their application with us. Hopefully this study will help us gain a better understanding of one of our planets greatest and most powerful forces of nature…   

Posted by Ricky Patel

Smart Materials – the optical characterization of VO2

 

Horiba UVISEL ellipsometer with Linkam THMSEL600

Recently, during a visit to Horiba in Chilly-Mazarin, with ellipsometer applications expert Céline Eypert I was excited to see Linkam products being used in the analysis of smart materials – materials that will greatly influence our daily lives.

One such material, VO2 , a material that exhibits a very fast semiconductor metal transition point, has a whole range of potential applications, due to its electrical and optical properties. Electrical resistivity can decrease by several orders of magnitude across the transition, and optically the material changes from being transparent as a semiconductor to reflective in the metallic state.

The Horiba UVISEL ellipsometer with its high performance and broad spectral range, in combination with the Linkam heating stage for highly accurate and precise temperature control, provides the perfect instrumentation to characterize these amazing materials.

For the full Horiba application note please visit the Horiba ellipsometry applications page

Many Thanks to Céline Eypert, Mélanie Gaillet and Jean-Paul Gaston for sharing the information with us.

Ian Pearce

Linkam bitten by the F1 bug

 

Now that the F1 season is well under way, the Linkam Karting Society decided to try and match their F1 heroes by engaging in some pretty high performance kart racing. So, one evening after a busy day at the factory, 16 of us representing all disciplines, trooped off to the Daytona track at the Sandown Racecourse in sunny and expensive Esher. Competitive spirit between departments at speeds in excess of 100 kph resulted in the usual array of spin-offs, crashes and shunting, but without any major damage to kart or driver. After two twenty-minute races the Mechanical Engineers from R+D emerged as the Red Bulls, occupying 3 of the top 4 slots, leaving the rest of us tortoises trailing in their exhaust. Anyway, all friends after the race, numerous beers and eagerly awaiting the re-match.

Ian Pearce

 

Queens University, Belfast hosts the Thermal Analysis Conference 2011

Investigating inks for imaging, analysing materials for the atomic weapons establishment and playing around with pyrotechnics – these are just a few of the applications of our stages that I was introduced to during my attendance at the TAC 2011.

The thermal analysis and calorimetry conference held at the Queens University, Belfast focused on the application of the thermal analysis technologies in pharmaceutical, chemical, polymer and petrochemical manufacturing thereby bringing together scientists from a broad range of disciplines.

The talks that particularly captured my attention were the applications of thermoanalytical techniques to cultural heritage - specifically, investigating environments in display cases in museums, and the analysis of complex organic systems used in the manufacture of fuel and lubricants for high profile racing cars.

As you can see the subject matter was varied, and although this conference was not dedicated to thermal microscopy alone, it provided an excellent opportunity to showcase our instruments. It was also a great chance to chat to scientists who currently use our systems  After a long day discussing cutting edge thermal analysis it was time for analysis of a different kind - culinary - as we retired from the seminar rooms to the banquet, laid on for us in the University's Great Hall.

 

Posted by Rosie Hider

How has cooking influenced evolution?

 

Many leading anthropologists from around the world believe that cooking has played a key role in the rate of evolution of mankind.

One common theory is that an increase in human brain size was correlated to our species moving away from the consumption of nuts and fruits and on to the consumption of cooked foods around 250,000 years ago. The rationale behind this theory is that cooking food breaks down its cells, meaning that our stomachs need to do less work to liberate the nutrients our bodies need and therefore there was more free energy available to power a larger brain - in fact without cooking, it is thought that an average human being would have to consume around 5 kilos of raw foods, which would take 6 hours per day to chew.

This is a question that has generated a lot of publicity in recent times, with Horizon airing a show entitled “Did cooking make us human?” on the BBC on the 2nd of March 2010 which focuses on the origins of cooking food and what effects it has had on the evolution of species within the homo genus.

On the back of this, a well known Korean TV company wanted to film their own programme posing a similar question, and they filmed some experimental work at the Leatherhead Food Research facility in Surrey, UK.  

Project Manager Kathy Groves and Microscopist Jill Webb were filmed carrying out an experiment to show the effects of heating food on the cell structure by using our THMS600 stage to warm a potato sample up to normal cooking temperature and viewing the cells under a microscope.

I would like to thank Kathy and Jill for inviting me to the filming of the programme, and wish everyone at Leatherhead food research well for the studies that they are carrying out that will hopefully help shed more light on how cooking has influenced evolution.  

Posted by Ricky Patel

Linkam's LTS350 helps our understanding of icy bodies in the solar system

Images of N2 clathrate hydrates obtained at temperatures ranging from 123 to 266°K over a period of 30 minutes.

The opening article of Microscopy and Analysis this month (Issue 144) features our very own LTS350 stage in use by the Ice Physics Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Dr Mathieu Choukroun, and rest of the team in the Ice Physics Laboratory have been measuring the thermophysical properties of icy compositions relevant to geophysical applications. The goal of this project is to help understand the thermal evolution and behaviour of icy bodies in the solar system, and help explain exciting phenomena such as cryovolcanism, plate tectonics and tidal heating on these celestial bodies.

The scientists also hope these studies will bring them closer to discovering whether there could be glacial lakes and oceans beneath the icy surfaces on other planets (as suggested by missions like Galileo.)  ...there may even be unfrozen water and you know what that means? That's right, the possibility of life...Extra Terrestrial life - our stages could be partly responsible for discovering E.T!!!!! exciting stuff eh?

You can read more about this interesting study on our Application Notes page...although there's nothing about the discovery of aliens.... yet.

Posted by Rosie Hider

Behind the scenes at Linkam: Beautiful engineering

As many of you know, we have a special blue sky research department in The Netherlands.  This is where a small team of R&D engineers cook up all kinds of amazing bespoke solutions for customers.  It is also where we can try things out, new ideas that we simply believe to have amazing potential.

Some of these ideas make it to production and some of them are just cool toys that scientists haven't found a good application for....yet.

I just wanted to share a couple of neat tools that these guys just built to enable us to make a tiny high temperature furnaces for quenching fluid inclusions and potenitally other samples under high resolution optics.

This heater is extremely difficult to build and yet these guys have made some really fantastic jigs to help our production engineers build it in quantity.

Posted by Vince Kamp

Preserving and protecting our great oceans...

Delegates being given a practical demonstraion of freeze-drying microscopy

With the conservation of marine life becoming more important as the degree of human impact on the oceans is becoming further apparent, scientists from all over the globe are working on educating the world on protecting the ocean and its inhabitants.

In February, delegates from as far afield as Korea converged at the Scottish Marine Institute for the “Conservation of marine micro-organisms training course” held under the auspices of the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences and the Association of European Marine Biological Laboratories (ASSEMBLE).

Organised by Dr. John Day (who runs the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa), the course was run over 2 days and included lectures on marine microbiology conservation and cryopreservation. One lecture in particular, on lyophilisation theory,  given by Dr Paul Matejtschuk (NIBSC-Health Protection Agency)  was supplemented by a practical demonstration of freeze-drying microscopy using our FDCS-196 Freeze drying cryo stage.

Delegates were impressed by the relative ease of use and power of resolution offered by the polarised light options which make this one of the most valuable tools in determining critical temperatures for vitrification, cryopreservation and freeze drying.

Many thanks to John, Paul and all the others for putting on extremely informative course and for all the hard work that they are putting in trying to educate people on the importance of marine conservation.

Posted by Ricky Patel

10 Years Of Partnership with Biopharma Technology

 

This year Linkam are celebrating 10 years of successful partnership with Biopharma Technology Limited in supplying freeze-drying solutions to the pharmaceutical industry.

Founded in 1997, Biopharma Technology Limited (BTL) develop freeze drying solutions to multiple materials in the world of pharmaceuticals. For those of us who are not so familiar with freeze drying, or ‘lyophilisation’ as it is also known, it is a method of processing a liquid product into a dry solid product.

Early days at BTL saw homemade instrumentation based on ideas originating at Porton Down, but in 2001 Director of Research at BTL, Dr Kevin Ward, came across Linkam and our range of temperature controlled stages. 

The two companies went on to develop a number of instruments, the latest being the Lyostat 3 freeze drying microscope.  The Lyostat3 system uses polarized light microscopy to capture images of the sample’s structural changes as temperature increases, information that is vital for successful freeze drying.

The combination of BTL’s applications knowledge and Linkam’s instrumentation expertise brings a real added-value product to the freeze drying market place. For Linkam, it has been a real benefit being at the leading edge of an exciting and growing market.

Posted by Rosie Hider

LTS420s are flying out the door.....at last

Ok, I know we already announced this some time ago, but for those who ordered one of these stages it may have been quite a wait.  We can only hope that it has been well worth it.  There is nothing quite like the LTS420 on the market.  The pure silver heating element ramps up at 50C/min and has an incredibly fast response rate for such a large temperature controlled surface.  It will take a microscope slide right from -196 to 420C and control to 0.1C.

Building this element out of pure silver like our THMS600 elements turned out to be a lot more difficult than we had anticipated, but we've finally nailed it and so after nearly 2 years of research and development the 420s are now flying out the door at a terrific rate.

We are so pleased with the performance of this stage that we are going to automatically upgrade all existing orders of LTS350 to LTS420 at no additional charge and even though the 420 uses a pure silver element instead of the copper 350 element we will maintain the LTS350 cost.

The LTS350 has been a fantastic general heating and freezing microscope stage but the LTS420 has really raised the bar for temperature controlled microscopy.

Posted by Vince Kamp

Out of adversity comes an opportunity


 

 Thermo's DXR-Micro Raman with Linkam System

At 6.03 am on Sunday 11th December 2005, a huge blast at Buncefield fuel depot on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead caused chaos and serious devastation to a lot of industries in the surrounding area, including the building that was home to the Thermo-Fisher-Scientific instrument group. The severity of the explosion caused irreparable damage, which gave Thermo-Fisher the opportunity to make a brand new state of the art facility from scratch and within 2 years, the new site was up and fully functional.

Around two weeks ago, Ian Pearce and I got the chance to experience this magnificent new building. The reason behind the visit was to get a firsthand look at the Thermo-Fisher DXR Micro Raman spectroscopy system and confirm compatibility with a few of our Linkam stages, namely the THMS600LTS420 and TS1500.

Linkam would like to thank Thermo-Fisher for the hospitality that was shown to us during the visit and also for reminding us all of the age old saying “out of adversity comes an opportunity”. 

Posted by Ricky Patel