Linkam Courts Attention At Versailles

Giles Vaillant on the Microvision booth at the exhibition

Last week Gilles Vaillant, from Linkam’s French distributor Microvision Instruments, attended MesurExpoVision. The exhibition took place in Paris, at Porte de Versailles, named after Versailles, the famous location of Louis XIV’s opulent, sprawling Palace.

MesurExpoVision is the largest international exhibition for products and services related to measurement, instrumentation and vision, so we were delighted to see that Gilles had brought a Linkam FDCS196 stage to the show.

This freeze drying cryo stage has many exciting features: it can be used to cool samples down to -196°C so that they can be observed using light microscopy techniques such as phase contrast and polarized light. The collapse and eutectic temperatures can be accurately determined and freeze dried structure of complex samples investigated.

Our partner Microvision Instruments is headquartered at Evry, 30 km south of Paris, near Orly airport.
For more information please see  

Best Of Breed: Linkam Warm Stages Down On The Farm

Calf on a UK Farm

Some veterinary surgeries offer on-site fertility assessment for breeding stock at farms and they rely on Linkam instruments.

These animal fertility assessments are crucial for animal husbandry in the UK; farmers need to know that their animals are healthy before the breeding season so that lambing and calving can be organised effectively. Tup, or sheep, testing is often conducted in the autumn and bull testing occurs in the spring.

Relying on a sub-fertile male to fertilise a large herd can be disastrous: farmers need to ensure all females are fertilised at the same time so that all young are born in a set period. This means the farmer maximises the productivity of his herd, and reduces both the risk of disease and labour costs associated with monitoring the animals during this vulnerable period. The concentration, motility and morphology of sperm are universal indicators of fertility- regardless of the species of male.

But as readers of this blog may already know, sperm activity (including motility) is temperature dependent. To establish fertility, observations need to be carried out at body temperature in order to mimic conditions within the body; for humans, bulls and tups this is exactly 37°C.

In the summer vets can rely on speed, skill and summer warmth to keep their samples alive long enough to observe, but as the winter chill hits the UK, it becomes a race against time. Cold weather has a devastating effect on sperm testing – sperm slow and die, being highly susceptible to cold shock. The use of a precise, accurate heated warm stage is an essential part of the assessment in winter.

Linkam Warm Stage for animal sperm assessment

Linkam’s warm stages provide a solution to this as they are designed to hold a specified temperature to +/- 0.1°C from ambient to 60°C. A platinum resistor temperature sensor is used for higher accuracy and stability and a sophisticated CAD designed bi-filar heating element covers the entire working surface which provides uniform temperature distribution in the sample. Some of the larger farms have microscopes on-site and can view the samples directly while the veterinary surgeries also have official laboratories.

The Linkam stage gives the assessor the confidence that all samples are observed at a stable, set temperature making the Linkam stage a necessary key tool for anyone wanting to look at fertility – animal or otherwise- in or out of the lab.

By Caroline Feltham

Under the spotlight: Ricky Patel

Linkam has over 30 staff members who work in the labs, offices and the workshop. Over the next year or so we are going to introduce you to some of them. First up under the spotlight is Ricky Patel, a name you may be familiar with if you have made any enquires about installation or repairs, and of course you may have met him at a show...

Ricky Patel – Technical Support Executive

How long have you worked at Linkam?

Coming up to 2½ years. Time really does fly.

What’s the best part of working at Linkam?

For a world-renowned company, it has never lost the family business feel about it. Staff and customers are very much appreciated here.

Tell us about your studies and work experience. What were doing before Linkam?

I have a MChem In Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Surrey. Work experience was at Quotient BioResearch in Cambridgeshire.

Why did you choose a science career?

Growing up, my parents used to own a small newsagent and I have always had a passion for science. The scientific sales sector just seemed to have the perfect combination of both of those worlds for me.

What makes you passionate about science?

I enjoy seeing the innovation in all aspects of science, whether it is a new drug to prevent an illness, or a new probe sent into space, it is always interesting to learn about the advancements we are making.

What do your parents do?

My father is a foreign exchange branch manager, my mother works in retail. They both work at Gatwick Airport, so feel free to say hello if you are ever passing through!

How would you describe your average day at Linkam?

I’d describe it as like a good book – there is a lot of action, some comedy and a tiny bit of horror involved in everyday.

Has the company changed much since you started working here?

A lot. The company is evolving every day and it’s a fantastic feeling to be a part of it.

What are your hobbies?

Sport, sport and sport. I enjoy watching or playing almost any sport. Football, cricket, NFL to name a few – though, being a Liverpool fan, times are tough right now.

Where do you want to be in ten years?

Living in a mansion on South Beach, Miami with a super-model wife. One can only dream…

And lastly, where did you go on your last holiday?

Cancun, Mexico… Late nights, bleary eyes, and great memories.

Sounds great, my kind of holiday... Next month it will be another staff member under the spotlight but for now, thanks for reading

By Caroline Feltham


Wheel of Fortune

 A memorable invite for a memorable partyLinkam celebrated its 30th anniversary last weekend with a night in The Savoy Hotel and The Hippodrome Casino in London.

The Harrods routemaster bus waiting to take us on an adventureWe were picked up from Linkam by the green Harrods routemaster bus. It was a cosy, slightly bumpy ride, although the minor discomfort was more than made up for by the excited atmosphere within and without. Inside, the partygoers were boisterous and loud, and outside the distinctive bus caused many heads to turn as we wound our way through morning traffic towards the store.

The front visage of Harrods, the luxury department storeInside Harrods we spent a lazy hour picking up a few well-deserved presents. All of us were given a gift card from Linkam to spend as we liked in the various departments. Each department seemed bigger than the last with too many things to see; you'd need a day, or two, to see the whole of the store. I spent some time in one of my favourite parts, the tea and chocolate section, where everything looked delicious; with difficulty I confined myself to one box of chocolates (this time).  

    Yum! How do you choose when everything looks so good? The hour spent here was especially poignant as this was the late Louise Kamp’s favourite store and we were glad to be able to pay tribute to a lady who was both a founder of Linkam Scientific Instruments and an instrumental part of the companies early and continued success

The iconic signAfter Harrods we had lunch at The Savoy, instantly recognisable with its iconic art deco sign. The name conjures up images of old-style Hollywood glamour and it didn’t disappoint. It is one of London’s grandest hotels and stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra and whole host of VIPs have stayed within its impressive confines. As you entered, you couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation, wondering just who might have walked through the doors and who you might meet. A celebrity? Royalty?

The bright welcoming sign to the American Bar, the place to be for a good cocktail.We were ushered into The River Room, an elegant and modern location, famous for being where in 1946 the then Princess Elizabeth was seen in public for the first time with her soon to be husband, Prince Philip of Greece.  After a light lunch of sandwiches and cakes we checked into our rooms which were either decked out in the clean lines of Edwardian elegance, or the inviting and distinctive Art Deco style. There was little time to bask in the luxury (I managed to slip down to the American Bar and try one of their amazing cocktails – the Savoy Daisy) as it was time to get ready for the next part of our adventure.  

The Hippodrome casino - where the wheel of fortune spins 24hrsThat evening we had our party at The Hippodrome. The 112-year-old Grade-II listed building on the corner of Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road has been reborn as London’s first and largest 93,000 sq ft casino. After a multi-million pound renovation the building now features three floors of gambling, five bars, a dedicated poker floor, an intimate cabaret theatre and the high energy Heliot restaurant and lounge. The building is steeped in the rich history of London: it was here you could have seen acrobats and live animals perform at the turn of the century or been in the front row of the premier of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in 1910. From 1958 to the present day the Hippodrome has hosted some of the most iconic artists of the 20th century, including Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and more, not to mention the rich and royalty who have sauntered through those doors.

Judy Kuhn singing to us. On Saturday night we listened to Broadway cabaret artist Judy Kuhn, the voice of 'Pocahontas' and star of 'Les Miserables'.  Accompanied by a glass of champagne we heard her rich and emotive songs and it was a great start to a night of celebration. With the soft croon of her voice still filling our minds we sat down at the green felt tables for a lesson in roulette and blackjack.

All eyes were on the spinning ball - where will it land? Hands came and went, and the wheel of fortune spun as hopes rose and descended, tables emptying until only a few stayed on to win big. At the end of the evening at the casino some were winners, some were losers.

But in the light of day it could be said we were all winners; we have had the amazing luck to end up at Linkam and now have memories of a great night that will last a lifetime. In these uncertain times I'd call that a big win. I would like to offer a big thanks to everyone who made the night what it was – Vince, Arnold, Craig – and all the Linkam staff.

By Caroline Feltham

Back to '82

Happy 30th birthday, Linkam.

Back in 1982, the world looked a little different: Linkam was founded in the same year as the first ever CD player prototype was demonstrated in Japan, the first commercial product of genetic engineering (bacteria grown insulin) became available to the public, and the first computer generated effects movie, Tron, came out.

While the rest of the world was going crazy for shoulder pads, pac-man and big hair, Arnold Kamp was quietly designing instruments in a shed at the bottom of his garden.

Arnold with Vince busy building hotstages.

From these modest beginings we have grown into a company with 30 employees in two countries.

Much has changed since the days when Arnold built the equipment, his wife Louise kept the books and their children Vincent and Jacqueline cleaned the machines. To read more about the story of Linkam please click here.

Today, we require 60 kg of silver and over a 1,000 platinum sensors each year to make our unique stages, and to keep up with demand. The iconic THMS600 was first designed in the 1980’s, the versatile LTS350 stage in the 1990’s and we continue to be at the forefront of design in 2012 with a new pressure and tensile stage. 

With these products, and dozens of custom-made creations, we have demonstrated our knowledge of the physical sciences. We have affirmed our place as the number one manufacturer in the world of heating stages

We have a specialist design lab in Holland and all manufacturing, sales and customer service takes place in the UK. Linkam staff have a mixture of skills and experiences: our longest staff member Peter Grocutt, Research and Design manager, started in 1984 and our newest recruit Bernie Garman, Sales Administrator, started in February this year.

As a versatile and family-run company we work hard and play hard with numerous outside activities from dinners to sporting events. Earlier this year our weekend warrior cyclists stormed nearby Box Hill, and not so long ago our wannabe F1 drivers were an active menace on the go-kart track. This weekend we are celebrating our 30th anniversary at The Savoy in London.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers for their support over the years.

We look forward to many more years of innovation.

By Caroline Feltham  

Under Pressure

Can you compete under pressure?

It's all around us, and in several forms, from the physical pressure that makes our ears pop underwater to the emotional and psychological pressure of trying to get that experiment just right... and of course when it all starts to go horribly wrong.

As scientists we are constantly confronted by situations that put us under pressure; how you react can determine sucess or failure.

Ever wondered how good you are? Do you have a calm head or fall to pieces?

The BBC is running an interactive 20 minute test that investigates exactly that. A series of simple challenges test your reactions while you listen to a emotive soundtrack.

under pressure 1.png

Micheal Johnson presents the BBC's psychological testTo test yourself under pressure you need a psychological test, to test your samples under pressure - you need a Linkam stage.    

There are three options for a high pressure investigation.

1 - The CAP500

under pressure 2.png

The CAP500 stage is designed to test samples within quartz capillaries that can be pressurized up to 600bar. Heated within a 50mm silver block the samples can be rapidly heated and cooled in the range of –196°C to 500°C at a rate from 0.1 to 50°C/min.

2 - The THMS600PS

under pressure 3.png

The THMS600-PS combines accurate temperature control with the ability to investigate the effects of pressure up to 14 Bar. Samples can be loaded on coverslips, or within the THMS crucible. The stage has a temperature range: -196°C to 600 °C at 1 bar, -100°C to 500°C at 14 bar and a max heating/cooling rate of up to 130°C / min

3- CCR1000

under pressure 4.png

The new catalyst stage from Linkam has been designed to study catalytic reactions at high temperature and pressure. Samples are mounted on a virtually non-reactive disposable ceramic filter within the ceramic heating element. The stage has a temperature range from ambient to 1000°C. The heating rates are from 1 to 200°C/min with pressure up to 5bar (with quartz window installed).

In the BBC's test, they monitor your mindset before and after each challenge. It's simple but the results are surprising. To have a go and see how you do click here

For more information on any of our stages, or to tell us how you did on the BBC test, please email or add a comment below this post. Can't wait to hear from you.

By Caroline Feltham

Making Light Work: the European Microscopy Congress 2012

Ian Pearce, Linkam's International Sales Manager at the Linkam Scientific booth at EMC2012
Last week we exhibited our instruments at the 15th European Microscopy Congress, and what a successful show it was.  Excited delegate comments of 'It's been non-stop buzz' and 'The best microscopy show I've attended in at least the last 10 years' were not uncommon.

The conference featured some fascinating talks which ran alongside Europe's largest exhibition dedicated to microscopy.

Together these created a festival atmosphere and a truly memorable event.

The conference was set in Manchester Central, a magnificent refurbished train station in the heart of one of the UK’s most exciting cities. With its vaulted arches and iconic clock, the building has been a much-loved feature and an integral part of Manchester for nearly 130 years.

Over 1,600 delegates attended over the course of the week, in addition to several hundred day visitors. Nearly 1,000 exhibitors, on over 100 stands, brought a wide range of exciting and new equipment to view and test. Within eight parallel sessions, there were 450 oral presentations, 84 speakers, and an impressive 750 poster presentations.  Altogether it was quite a crowd.

A very crowded conference hall.Dr Debbie Stokes, Chair of the Congress, and Dr Paul Midgley, EMS President, welcomed all delegates and exhibitors on the first day. Together they introduced the plenary Lecturers: Professor Tony Wilson and Professor Peter Dobson. Professor Wilson gave an entertaining and informative talk on 'Making light work' and Professor Dobson provided a thought provoking look at the potential of nanotechnology in the future.

As promised, Linkam had a very special surprise for our first 150 visitors. We hope you enjoyed them.

Tasty cupcakes were given away free on the Linkam stand in celebration of our company's 30th year anniversary. We would like to extend a big thank you to all the organisers for such a fantastic event. We would also like to thank all our visitors who took the time to come and talk to us. We enjoyed meeting you face to face and hearing your stories, questions, thoughts and concerns and look forward to working with you in the future - and maybe delivering a new surprise or two along the way.

Thanks again.

By Caroline Feltham

Picture Perfect

Getting the right picture is tough; ask any photographer and they will tell you the angle, light, focus and many other factors complicate the simple procedure of hitting a button and taking that crucial image.

The situation is further complicated for a scientist who wants to take a picture, at high magnification, of an opaque sample such as soil or metal during a high temperature experiment.

Well at Linkam we like a challenge... and our clever team in the R+D department has come up with this little device: the Reflective Collar.  

The Reflective Collar with its neat ring of LEDs visible.

The Camera, TS1500 Stage and the Reflective Collar on the Imaging Station. The reflective collar fits on the 10x lens supplied with the Imaging Station and features a neat ring of LEDs bulbs which create a uniform source of light to illuminate your sample from above. Using the reflective collar in combination with a camera and Linksys32-DV software a previously dark screen is illuminated and your sample clearly displayed. 

A clay sample viewed without the Reflective Collar

The same sample viewed with the Reflective Collar.

This reflective collar can also be used with other lens, please ask us for more information if required.

By Caroline Feltham


Packed up and ready to go - EMC 2012

On the 16th to the 21st September the European Microscopy Congress - the largest exhibition in the world dedicated to microscopy, analysis and imaging - will open its doors to thousands of exhibitors, speakers and visitors.

With a huge 6000m² exhibition hall, technical workshops, poster village and learning zone it is sure to be an exciting and informative event.

Linkam Scientific Instruments is very excited to be among the exhibitors attending this great event in Manchester. We can be found at booth 911, where we will be waiting to show you our brand new cryobiology stage and several of our other unique and exciting hot stages including the THMS600PS, TST350, TS1500EV, THMS600 and LTS420.  

There will be the opportunity to handle all the equipment and see a live demonstration of the TST350.

I will be there all week, and Ian Pearce and Ricky Patel will be stopping by, so if you do come have a look, please do say hello. 

From left to right Ricky Patel, Caroline Feltham and Ian Pearce.Additionally we will also be presenting an exciting poster on Wednesday morning detailing the use of our brilliant new hot stage the TS1400XY for geological studies.

And the fun doesn’t stop there – this year Linkam is celebrating its 30th anniversary and for the first guests who come see us on Monday 17th there will be a special tasty surprise.


Hope to see you there 

By Caroline Feltham


ILCC 2012 - Crystals, Cruises and Castles


From left to right: Taylor Wand, Linkam's Ian Pearce, Michael Wand

This year’s International Liquid Crystal Conference was hosted in the historic city of Mainz at the Rhengoldhalle Conference Centre nicely situated on the great Rhine itself.

More than 900 delegates attended this very well organised conference and exhibition where the latest research advances were illustrated with an extensive poster show and a busy schedule of seminars.

Linkam attended in partnership with LC vision again ( and we were so pleased to meet with many existing customers, exchanging new ideas for instrumental requirements, and hopefully introducing ourselves to the next generation.

Linkam’s heating stages with the LC Vision LCAS3 provide the perfect combination to measure a whole range of electrical and elastic constants of the LC material whilst recording behavioural changes with temperature.

The highlight of our free time was a cruise along the Rhine to the castles and vineyards region, and being Germany, beer was featured as strongly on this trip.

 The view of the Rhine from our cruise ship Everything ran so smoothly, many thanks to all involved.

By Ian Pearce

The Science of Chocolate: Losing The Fat, Keeping The Snap

The satisfying snap of chocolate is a big part of its appeal 

If chocolate was one of our ‘five a day’, many of us would have no trouble reaching the target. Alas, it is not, and in reality it is a food which contains a lot of fat, along with sugar and cocoa.

The fat constituent can be up to 40% in a basic dark chocolate.

Fat and its ability to form crystals is an important part of many foods as it can crystallize and influence taste, consistency and appearance.

Manufacturers are keen to make chocolate healthier, and less calorific, but they must do this without losing its attractive qualities, such as: its taste, the fact that it is solid at room temperature, yet melts at body temperature and has that satisfying snap when it breaks. One way to make chocolate healthier is to try to reduce the fat content: this is called reformulation.   

Removing fat can introduce processing problems, the reduction in fat can make the chocolate more viscous with the result that the current methods of production are no longer suitable or may be inhibited. To combat this limonene can be added to make it softer. Limonene oil is an orange/citrus food flavouring that can be mixed with the chocolate to dilute the fat so you need less of it, to get the same benefits.

The scientists at the University of Nottingham and Loughborough University have used a Diaplan Leitz microscope, Digital Pixelink PL-A662 camera and our Linksys32 software to investigate if the limonene had an affect on the formulation, shape and size of fat crystals. 

Chocolate samples, one with the limonene added and one without it were observed for microstructure changes over a period of 4 weeks. The scientists have managed to take some great images of the crystalised fat observed on the sample. 

A photo of a chocolate fat crystal

To find out more about this research please see the paper

The Effect of Limonene on the Crystallization of Cocoa Butter

Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society

March 2012, Volume 89, Issue 3, pp 437-445

Joydeep Ray, William MacNaughtan, Peng Siong Chong, Josélio Vieira, Bettina Wolf

By Caroline Feltham

ICR 2012 – Sun, Sand and Shear Forces

Linkam Booth at ICR 2012

Last week, the who’s who of the Rheological world descended upon the historic city of Lisbon for the 26th International Congress of Rheology, which is held every 4 years.

This year’s venue was the stunning Belem cultural centre, a modern arts and conference centre on the banks of the majestic river Tagus. ICR 2012 enabled the world’s leading Rheologists to gather from across the globe to present the latest advancements and developing trends in the field. Delegates took the opportunity to discuss their ideas and studies with their peers in the pristine Iberian sunshine.


Just one of the glorious views from the Belem Centre

However, it most definitely was not a case of all work and no play for the attendees of the conference, as there was a fantastic social programme in place designed to entertain and educate: a tour around the capital city of Portugal gave an insight into its unique blend of unusual character and charm, created by 800 years of contrasting cultural influences; a banquet fit for royalty gave as much pleasure to the eyes as it did to the taste buds, and finally, a beach party which allowed delegates to show off their personal flow characteristics on the dance floor!

On a personal note, it was great to see so many delegates at the conference visiting the booth to tell me that they are more than happy with the Linkam equipment they have in their labs. Equally it was good to gauge the opinions of those delegates on the CSS450 and the TST350 who were seeing the equipment for the first time.

All in all, I’m sure I can speak for the majority when I say that ICR2012 was a week that I will not be forgetting in a hurry. I would like to thank Professor Joao Maia and his team for organising such a superb event: “Obrigado Joao…Obrigado Portugal!”

By Ricky Patel

Earth-shaking Science

Some rocks, which are composed of several different minerals and organic derivatives (for example coal) are water bearing. How they store and lose water is important in some geological fields as this can give clues about how and why earthquakes happen, and about structural changes within the rocks relative to temperature.

At the University of Rome Tre, Giancarlo Della Ventura and his colleagues are using the Linkam FTIR600 stage to look the loss of water in leucite, a common silicate mineral found in lavas. Using the FTIR600 stage the scientists have demonstrated the ability to monitor the process across samples a few µm thick, and obtain time/dehydration curves.

This loss of water can be very fast. In order to study this dynamic reaction in-situ under non-ambient conditions it is necessary to capture high resolution images quickly. This can be achieved by using the Linksys32-DV software that also controls the stage temperature. Non-equilibrium processes of geological interest and dehydration processes in other minerals can also be studied using the FTIR600 stage and the Linksys32-DV software. 

Leucite and the FTIR stage

In one experiment a small crystal fragment was heated constantly at 5°Cmin-1, dehydrating smoothly until at 400°C it is almost anhydrous. Images are taken at 1°C intervals, using a 15x objective, illuminating ~170x170µm2 areas to enhance the contrast of the water band at the edge of the crystal.

In a second experiment, a crystal was heated quickly at 50°Cmin-1 up to 300°C, where it had lost approximately 50% of its water. The sample was held at 300°C and images were taken at intervals to show the continued dehydration of the sample. After 150min the sample was nearly anhydrous.      

Giancarlo Della Ventura commented the greatest benefit of using a Linkam stage is the “possibility to do experiments in situ, i.e. during the thermal treatment.”

We like to think Linkam stages are being used for earth-shattering science and our equipment certainly has a part to play investigating earthquakes.

By Caroline Feltham

Technology gets a tune-up

Not just hot design and super-cool accuracy...

Linkam has electrifying potential.

SERS or Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering is a technique used to increase the sensitivity of Raman spectroscopy. Using this method scientists can potentially examine single molecules absorbed on a metal surface. However they do not fully understand the mechanisms behind this increased sensitivity and so are exploring theories as to how and why this is occurring.

HRS600 Stage on the Raman Spectrometer 

Dr Sharath Sriram from RMIT University Australia and a team of scientists are using an HFS91-PB4 (HFS600) Linkam stage to apply a oscillating electrical field to a sample of thiophenol and study the corresponding effect on the SERS spectra. To apply this field micro-fabricated, silver nano-textured electrodes are used within the stage. These were functionalized by application of a mono-layer of thiophenol. The SERS measurements were obtained using a 532nm laser with a 50second accumulation time.

 Close up of Dr Sharath Sriram Stage with electrodes

The team have found that applying the oscillating field appears to rearrange these molecules and allow specific bonds to be identified. These bonds' peak intensities may be modified by applying an electrical field which could potentially allow the team to increase or suppress areas of interest. (Theoretically they could dial-in to an area of interest in the same way you or I would tune in to a favoured radio channel). The scientists are continuing to investigate the application of this technique to study separate analytes and bonds.

To understand more about this research please see the paper:

Influence of Electric Field on SERS: Frequency Effects, Intensity Changes, and Susceptible Bonds’

Sharath Sriram, Madhu Bhaskaran, Shijian Chen, Sasani Jayawardhana, Paul R. Stoddart, Jefferson Z. Liu, Nikhil V. Medhekar, Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, and Arnan Mitchell

J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2012, 134 (10), pp 4646–4653

By Caroline Feltham  

A Cleaner Future

Considered a clean fuel - because when it burns in air it forms water - Hydrogen can be used to fuel motor vehicles, provide energy for homes and even power rockets and spaceships.

Space shuttle taking off from Florida, USA

At the University of South Carolina, a graduate student, Xiaojing Sun, is using the Linkam CCR1000 stage to look at the phase change of a complex hydride LiBH4, which could potentially be used as a Hydrogen (H2) store. There are several possible ways of storing H2: under high pressure, using cryogenics and within chemical compounds that act as a reversible store. Any method used needs to be safe, reliable and have an acceptable energy density.

LiBH4 is a complex hydride and a chemical molecule that can store H2. When it melts it breaks down into several constituents: B, Li2B12H12, LiH and H2. The scientists are studying the phase transitions of LiBH4 and attempting to identify the crystallographic structures with Raman spectroscopy. They aim to further understand these decomposition mechanisms as the products and intermediates are not well understood.  

Xiaojing Sun says: “The cell and temperature controller are very well designed and working well.” She has found that when the reactant decomposes to form H2 around 400°C, and is cooled fully, infused with hydrogen, and heated again, the amount of H2 released for this second cycle is significantly decreased. She hopes to learn what chemical changes occur during the increasing temperature and then may introduce some other metallic element to the reactant to achieve a better recycle.

CCR1000 in the University Lab As scientists gain a better understanding of LiBH4 and other complex hydrides, they move closer to the eventuality of hydrogen as a fuel, and a cleaner future for us all.

By Caroline Feltham   

A Repeat Offender

Most people would describe the grounding of planes, the uprooting of families, and loss of life in a fire criminal. But these events can all be caused by a volcanic erruption - a natural event which is famously hard to predict.

This unpredictable nature is partly due to a lack of knowledge; every volcano has its own character and an accurate evaluation of each one is required. The magma ascent path, the nature of the plumbing systems, volatile contents - and the size and activity of the reservoirs themselves - are all important factors in predicting a volcano’s behaviour. The depth and shape of magma reservoirs has a huge influence on the physical-chemical properties of the magma and also on the expulsion of volatiles.

Not much is known about the volcanoes that comprise the islands of the Azores in spite of the large number of studies carried out in the past. Consistent models for the internal structure of volcanoes are still lacking, with important consequences for the volcanic hazard assessment of the area. The number, size and location of magma reservoirs beneath the islands are poorly known.

The THMSG600 stage is enabling scientists to learn more about the worlds volcanoes.

Vittorio Zanon, researcher of the Centro de Vulcanologia e Avaliação de Riscos Geológicos, University of the Azores, is collecting information on the reservoir locations and processes of magmas. To accomplish this he is studying numerous fluid inclusions using microscopy, a Linkam THMSG600 stage, and Raman spectroscopy. These techniques provide information on the composition of gas species co-existing with magma at depth, and on the pressure conditions of fluid entrapment. In this way he can obtain the depths of mineral crystallization, and therefore, the depths of magma reservoirs.

He has now been able to build a 2D model of the magma ascent path through the crust, determine the crust thickness, and the existence of a shallow area suitable for reservoir formation.

All this information aids the geologists in predicting the behaviour of the volcanoes in question. I am not saying that the geologists will be able to prevent an eruption, stall, or indeed divert the flow, - as was so sensationally accomplished in the movie 'Volcano' - but knowing when it is going to re-offend is certainly a start.


An Ongoing Fascination

At Linkam we are fascinated by our planet and the research scientists are doing to understand it better. One subject we like to hear more about is volcanoes. Look back at our “Exploring Vulcan’s Forge“ and “Application of the Linkam TS1400XY heating stage to MI studies” blog posts and you will see that our stages are helping scientists at the forefront of this research.

Tomorrow night, at 8pm on BBC 2, "Volcano Live" is the final of a 4 part documentary looking at volcanoes and how they form a part of our world.  Kate Humble and Professor Iain Stewart look to the future of volcanic forecasting. They also identify an Icelandic volcano which could put the eruption of Eyjafyallajokull in the shade.

Exciting stuff! Hope you enjoy it. I know I will.

Caroline Feltham


Material World

Fake tears, E numbers, and a whole lot of skin. No, I’m not talking about the latest episode of The Only Way is Essex (thankfully).

The above is a list of just some of the things that can come out of studying complex fluids - to be specific cellulose derivatives such as  Hydroxypropyl Cellulose (HPC) which is used as: E number 463, a DNA 'sieve' in DNA screening, artificial tears and a leather manuscript preservation fluid.

The Linkam Optical Shearing System (CSS450) allows structural dynamics of complex fluids to be directly observed via standard optical microscope while they are under precisely controlled temperature and various shear modes. Dr Pedro Almeida, who is using this stage, noted that this system is both "compact and friendly” and that a great advantage is the simplicity of the stage which is easy for beginner researchers to use.

Dr Almeida, a researcher from the Polymeric and Mesomorphic Materials Group, is studying the rheological characterization of anisotropic materials which are materials whose properties depend on orientation - such as wood which has a fixed grain and is stronger in one direction than the other. Some, but not all anisotropic materials are complex fluids, as when they undergo stress and shear a molecular reorganisation takes place, and their mechanical properties change. They also possess properties similar to both liquids and solids. 

Dr Almeida says: “The rheological behaviour of the materials under study is closely linked to its orientation, and so it is very important to be able to follow the orientation by optical microscopy, while under shear. The processing of the materials is dominated by its rheology, so, knowing the rheological behaviour, which depends on the degree of orientation, is crucial for processing design.”

As the researchers understand these complex fluids better they will be able to develop new applications which, as you can see from the above list, can be incredibly varied.

By Caroline Feltham

From blogger to belly dancer

Caroline in one of her many costumes, ready to hit the stage

Linkam chief blogger Caroline Feltham has a passion outside of hot stages... belly dancing.

Last weekend she took part in an annual dance show called 'The Magic of Bellydance' staged in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, to an audience of over 500 people. Dancing as part of a group called the 'Habibis', alongside 200 amateurs and professionals from across the South East of England, the show was a huge success.

The event was picked up in the national press with The Express newspaper reporting that one of the stars of the show has sold the story of belly dancing in the UK to Hollywood. Dubbed the new 'Calendar Girls', after the film starring Judi Dench, the movie will tell the story of how ten years ago one woman defied the sniggers and whispers and brought belly dancing to a quiet English village. Read the full story here.

Congratulations Caroline on a fantastic weekend. We look forward to bellydancing: the movie, and the red carpet premiere.


By Caroline Kamp