Paper of the Month — March

    Atomic Force Microscopy image of black phosphorous. (Image from Su & Zhang, 2015).


Atomic Force Microscopy image of black phosphorous. (Image from Su & Zhang, 2015).

March’s ‘Paper of the Month’ comes from Dr Yong Zhang and Dr Liqin Su at the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC).

They have used the Linkam high temperature TS1500 stage to conduct research on the properties of emerging 2D materials. 2D materials – a category which includes the widely publicised graphene – have been studied extensively in recent years, due to their potential for application in novel electronic and optoelectronic devices.

Graphene, a layered form of carbon atoms, is extremely thin and has many remarkable properties: as well as being incredibly strong and flexible, graphene is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Graphene’s downfall however is its inability to shut off conductivity completely.

As a result, scientists have been seeking alternative 2D materials with large band gaps, such as molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), tungsten disulphide (WS2), copper zinc tin selenide (CZT Se), and black phosphorous.

Black phosphorous is a particularly promising material due to its layer-dependant band gap, meaning it can function as a semi-conductor – essentially, it can be switched on and off. Its application in new nanotechnologies could give rise to a range of high performance microprocessors, transistors, lasers, solar cells and more.

In their paper “Temperature coefficients of phonon frequencies and thermal conductivity in black phosphorous layers” (Applied Physics Letters, 2015), Zhang and Su investigate the vibrational properties and electron-phonon interactions of black phosphorous, as well as how epitaxial or supporting substrates can impact the properties of a 2D material which is often presumed to have weak bonding with the substrate.

It is essential to understand these properties if black phosphorous is going to be successfully utilised in electronic and optoelectronic devices.

This work further demonstrates that high temperature Raman spectroscopy is an efficient technique for probing the 2D film/substrate interaction for a broad range of 2D materials, including graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides, as reported in another paper of Zhang’s group “Effects of substrate type and material-substrate bonding on high-temperature behaviour of monolayer WS2” (Nano Research, 2015).

The Linkam TS1500 stage allows them to investigate a thermal activation process that requires high temperatures, as well as the thermal stability under different conditions. 

Su, L. & Zhang, Y. (2015). Temperature Coefficients of Phonon Frequencies & Thermal Conductivity in Thin Black Phosphorous Layers. Applied Physics Letters 107(7)

Paper of the Month — February

    Snakebite envenomings constitute a highly relevant health problem in areas of Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. 


Snakebite envenomings constitute a highly relevant health problem in areas of Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

It is notoriously difficult to maintain a reliable cold chain for goods travelling to, or being stored in, rural communities in developing countries. This has serious implications for the distribution of medicines, vaccines, testing reagents and other substances, often with significant implications for healthcare.

One such substance are antivenoms. Whilst not something the Western world is greatly attuned to, snakebite envenomings are a highly relevant public health problem in areas of Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. The accepted treatment for snakebite envenomings is the parenteral administration of animal-derived liquid formulation antivenoms.

February’s ‘Paper of the Month’ from Herrera et al. uses the FDCS196 freeze-drying stage to investigate the viability of freeze-drying snake antivenoms. Freeze-drying is used to improve the long term stability of many pharmaceutical proteins, and eliminate the need for a continual temperature control. Proteins are stabilised through formulation with sugars and polyols, but until now the use of these compounds in the development of freeze-dried antivenoms has not been documented.

In this paper, whole immunoglobulin G antivenom from equine plasma was formulated with varying concentrations of sorbitol, sucrose or mannitol, and stored for 6 months at 40°C.

The authors said, “The thermal characterization of anti-venoms using freeze-drying microscopy and differential scanning calorimetry is crucial for the development of the freeze-drying process. The Linkam Instrumentation allowed us to know the collapse temperature of different formulations of snake antivenoms and determine which of them were suitable for freeze-drying in term of stability, cost and productivity”.

 Herrera et al. figure 1,  freeze-drying of antivenoms

Herrera et al. figure 1,  freeze-drying of antivenoms

The formulations were tested for stability and the neutralisation of the lethal effect of Bothrops asper venom. All formulations except antivenoms freeze-dried with mannitol exhibited the same potency, and the 5% sucrose formulation exhibited the best stability.

The results obtained provide valuable information for the production of more stable freeze-dried antivenoms in developing countries, where an adequate cold chain cannot be guaranteed. This could dramatically increase their availability in the areas they are most needed.

Herrera, M., Tattitini Jr, V., Pitombo, RNM., Gutierrez, JM., Borgognoni, C., Vega-Baudrit, J., Solera, F., Cerda, F., Cerda, M., Segura, A., Villalta, M., Vargas, M. and Leon, G. (2014). Freeze-dried snake antivenoms formulated with sorbitol, sucrose or mannitol: Comparison of their stability in an accelerated test. Toxicon 90, pp56-63.

By Frances Coles


Open Access Papers added

Our new website is in continual development and for our latest addition we have taken advantage of the growing trend in publishing open access research.

We are pleased to announce you can now find links to some great new papers featuring Linkam stages, directly from our website — just look for the application notes section for the product of your choice.

For example, the THMS600 now has a range of papers from over the last year, including some brand new research on phosphorene, a hugely interesting 2D material due to its unique properties such as layer-dependent direct bandgap energy, which could lead to the development of many novel electronic and optoelectronic devices.

The TST350 tensile stage is featured in a particularly interesting new paper entitled 'Intrinsic mechanical behaviour of femoral cortical bone in young, osteoporotic and bisphosphonate-treated individuals in low and high energy fracture conditions.'

New papers can also be found for the HFS600E-PB4, FDCS196, THMSG600, FTIR600, TS1500, TST350 and the LTS420, not forgetting our existing application notes on these and the CMS196M, BCS196, GS350, MDSG600, TS1000EL, THMSEL600, TS1400XY, and CCR1000.

We’ve got papers for a wide range of applications so we’re sure you will find something that suits your needs, happy browsing.

Congratulations to Microvision Instruments

    O. Huin CIO, JP Devez and G Vaillant with the Distributor of the Year award 


O. Huin CIO, JP Devez and G Vaillant with the Distributor of the Year award 

Linkam have been working with French distributor Microvison Instruments for over twenty years. We can now confirm Microvision had the highest growth in sales of our distributors for 2015, and as such are delighted to announce that they were the recipient of the first ever annual “Distributor of the Year” award.

We would like to thank Gilles Vaillant and the sales team for their great efforts representing and promoting Linkam products in France and related territories.  

We hope Microvison will be the first of many worthy winners.

Freeze Drying Focus Group

This March, the Friedrich-Alexander University’s ‘Freeze Drying Focus Group’ will be presented in English for the first time.

The 1 day seminar includes sessions on:

  • The Basic Principles of Freeze Drying
  • The ‘World of Thermal Analysis’ Using Freeze Dry Microscopy — which will be co-presented by Linkam’s Dr Michael Schwertner
  • Defining the quality of a Freeze Dried product
  • Instrument Demonstration and Laboratory Practice
  • Designing a Freeze Drying Cycle
  • and New insights in Freeze Drying of Co-Solvent Systems.

This is the University's Department of Pharmaceutics’ 11th Annual Seminar, and it is an event that has always proved very popular in the past.  

The seminar brings together people from academia, the pharmaceutical industry and vendors & suppliers of equipment to initiate sound scientific discussions in the field of freeze drying and also provides updates on the latest trends and research interests in this field.

Our FDCS196 Freeze Drying Cryo Stage will be on show throughout the day. 

More information and details on how to register for the seminar can be found here.

Paper of The Month — January

    Dr Matt Gibson using the Linkam BCS196 cryobiology stage to study ice recrystallisation inhibition activity.


Dr Matt Gibson using the Linkam BCS196 cryobiology stage to study ice recrystallisation inhibition activity.

January’s ‘Paper(s) of the Month’ come from the Gibson Group at the University of Warwick, a research group led by Dr Matt Gibson.

Matt and his group work at the interface of the organic and polymer chemistries with the life sciences, making use of modern polymer and organic methods to synthesise nano materials for various applications, including regenerative medicine, infectious disease and biotechnology.

Inspired by the evolutionary survival methods of polar region species, such as freeze avoidance using antifreeze (glyco)proteins (AFPs), the team has been working on the design and synthesis of polymer-based AFP mimics as novel new cryoprotectants for cell cryopreservation. They hope this will ultimately improve the availability of transplantable materials for regenerative medicine.

AFPs work by lowering the freezing point of water, and by preventing or slowing the growth of ice crystals. It is this ice recrystallisation inhibition (IRI) activity that is of particular interest to the Gibson group, as ice crystal growth during thawing is a major contributor to the failure of cryopreservation procedures.

Past attempts at using native AFPs for cryopreservation have shown they are not ideally suited to this application, but that a synthetic route to cryoprotectant molecules could be effective.

The group have successfully produced PVA polymers that mimic the function of AFPs, and have been using the Linkam BCS196 cryobiology stage to test their antifreeze properties. Their method employs gold nanoparticles as colourimetric probes for IRI, to allow high-throughput studies — it is hoped this will accelerate further investigations and discoveries of viable AFP mimics.

More recently they have also identified plant c-type lectins that display calcium dependent IRI activity, which indicates another possible approach to the development of synthetic AFP mimics.

The best technologies currently available for successful cryopreservation of cells and tissues involve adding large amounts of organic solvent, which has implications for future transplantation due to subsequent cellular toxicity. At present, blood for transfusions can only be stored for 42 days, and failure rates for transplantations increase rapidly with time since removal.

Improvements in the storage of cells (or tissues and organs in the future), through the use of cryopreservative AFP biomimics, would vastly improve the scope for regenerative medicine procedures and address an important unmet medical need.

By Frances Coles

Read more:

Linkam's interview with Dr Matt Gibson.

Mitchell, DE., Congdon, T., Rodger, A. and Gibson, MI. (2015). Gold Nanoparticle Aggregation as a Probe of Antifreeze (Glyco) Protein-Inspired Ice Recrystallization Inhibition and Identification of New IRI Active Macromolecules. Scientific Reports 5, 15716.

Mitchell, DE. & Gibson, MI. (2015). Latent Ice Recrystallisation Inhibition Activity in Nonantifreeze Proteins: Ca2+-Activated Plant Lectins and Cation-Activated Antimicrobial Peptides. Biomacromolecules 16(10), pp 3411-3416.

Mitchell, DE., Cameron, NR. And Gison, MI. (2015). Rational, yet simple, design and synthesis of an antifreeze-protein inspired polymer for cellular cryopreservation. Chemical Communications 51, pp 19977-12980.

New Year, New Products

    Linkam stage. Photo by Linkam's Jim Hayward 


Linkam stage. Photo by Linkam's Jim Hayward 

Welcome back everybody, and a Happy New Year!

At Linkam we have set ourselves a couple of resolutions for the year 2016.

Firstly, we will seek more feedback regarding our stages, so we can continue to refine them to best meet our users’ wants and needs. We hope this is something you might be able to help us with and look forward to talking with you all a bit more over the coming year.

Secondly, we will release a whole range of exciting new products, including our new LINK64 software. 

For updates keep an eye on the website, and on our Twitter and LinkedIn pages. Or, if you want to come and see us in person, you can find details of the trade shows Linkam, and our distributors, will be attending in 2016 over on our events page.

Merry Christmas from Linkam!

    Ice crystals form on a Christmas tree in a temperature controlled Linkam stage 


Ice crystals form on a Christmas tree in a temperature controlled Linkam stage 

We would like to wish a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year, to all our customers. 

Being based in the UK, we've decided it's unlikely we will see any real wintery weather this year, so one of our brilliant engineers (thanks Jack) has generated some Christmas spirit for us with a Linkam cryostage. Check out the video below to see ice crystals forming on our mini Christmas tree.  

2015 has been a great year here at Linkam. We have launched new products, welcomed new staff and new distributors, worked on some exciting development projects, and enjoyed learning more about some of the great research and results our users are able to achieve with our equipment. You can now find regular updates on what's going on at Linkam here on our new website, as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn.

We are all looking forward to some well earned time-off before what we expect will be an even busier 2016 — with many more product launches! Keep an eye out for our January newsletter to learn more about the new LINK64 software platforms and modules.

Merry Christmas all.

Paper of the Month — December

    Metacetamol. Optical image of the characteristic needles of Form-I (circled in red), and polycrystalline Form-II (circled in blue). Image from McGregor  et al ., 2015.


Metacetamol. Optical image of the characteristic needles of Form-I (circled in red), and polycrystalline Form-II (circled in blue). Image from McGregor et al., 2015.

A New Polymorph of Metacetamol (McGregor et al., 2015)

December’s 'Paper of the Month' [L.McGregor, D.A. Rychkov, P.L. Coster, S. Day, V.A. Drebushchak, A.F. Achkasov, G.S. Nichol, C.R. Pulham, E.V. Boldyreva, A New Polymorph of Metacetamol, CrystEngComm., 2015, 17, 6183-6192; DO: 10.1039/C5CE00910C.] opens the story of metacetamol polymorphism.   

Polymorphism of drugs is a hot topic that has widespread implications for the pharmaceutical industry. New drugs can be produced not only from new substances, but also from previously known compounds that can be crystallised to give a new crystal structure, i.e. a new polymorph.

Because they have different crystal structures, polymorphs of a compound very often differ in properties — new polymorphs can have better bioavailability, or be better for technological processing. At the same time, the unexpected appearance of a new polymorph of a drug during production or storage can result in huge financial losses for a pharmaceutical company.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that every pharmaceutical substance is fully characterised, and that particular attention is paid to the identification and characterisation of its polymorphs. Furthermore, the conditions for the crystallization of these polymorphs should be described.

However, it is often not easy to obtain new polymorphs, and it is even more difficult to rationalise the conditions under which they were formed and to ensure that their production is consistently reproducible.

Paracetamol is a well-known drug which has been around for over a century; several polymorphs of paracetamol have been obtained and studied in detail. A structural isomer of paracetamol —metacetamol— is also reported to have pharmaceutical activity, but until recently no polymorphs had been described for this compound. Metacetamol is being considered as a promising alternative to paracetamol due to its lower toxicity.

In this paper, a second new polymorph of metacetamol has been crystallised and extensively characterised using a range of instrumental techniques, including infrared spectroscopy using a Linkam FTIR600 stage. A procedure for the reliable and reproducible preparation of the new polymorph is described.

The Linkam instrumentation played a crucial role in the research. Not only was it used to measure IR-spectra at variable temperatures, but also the transformations between the previously known polymorph and the new polymorph could be followed in situ by heating and cooling the samples directly in the chamber of a Linkam FTIR600 stage.

The identification of this new form will lead to further investigation of solubilities, dissolution rates and bioavailabilities, and could potentially result in the appearance of a new pharmaceutical product on pharmacy shelves. The use of modern experimental equipment and techniques allows researchers to improve our understanding of drugs and ultimately improve medical care for patients.


Take A Closer Look

     Nematic Liquid Crystals. Photo by Dr Vance Williams, Simon Fraser University.


Nematic Liquid Crystals. Photo by Dr Vance Williams, Simon Fraser University.

We recently discovered an amazing liquid crystal photo gallery, with a collection of microphotographs all taken using a Linkam LTS350 stage (predecessor to the LTS420).

The photos were taken by Dr Vance Williams, an Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, who is Principal Investigator in an organic materials chemistry group called the Williams Research Group.

The group works with liquid crystals, molecular photoswitches and birefringent materials.

Their liquid crystal research focuses on uncovering the factors and interactions that control the self-assembly of liquid crystals through the design and synthesis of new liquid crystalline materials.

Liquid crystals are an intermediate state of matter between conventional liquids and solid crystals, with properties of both. There are many types of liquid crystal phases, which are distinguishable by their different optical properties. Viewed under a polarised light microscope, their different phases show impressive textures and birefringence colours.

The best known application of liquid crystals is in electronic displays, specifically ‘liquid crystal displays’ (LCDs) for computer monitors and televisions, But they can also be found in abundance in living systems, for example, as proteins and cell membranes. 

Dr Williams is a keen microphotographer, an example of his work can be seen above, but for more pictures visit his site. We hope we will be able to feature more of his work in the future.

By Frances Coles

Paper of the Month — November

    Representative image of SYTO®13 (green)/EB (red) fluorescence used for membrane integrity assay. Green cells have intact membranes and red cells have damaged membranes. Picture from  Prickett e t al. , 2015 .


Representative image of SYTO®13 (green)/EB (red) fluorescence used for membrane integrity assay. Green cells have intact membranes and red cells have damaged membranes. Picture from Prickett et al., 2015.

Effect of supercooling and cell volume on intracellular ice formation (Prickett et al., 2015)

November's 'Paper of the Month' comes from a team at the University of Alberta. They have been studying how intracellular ice formation during cryopreservation of cells is affected by the degree of supercooling and the cell volume, in the absence of cryoprotectants. 

Cryopreservation is the use of very low temperatures to preserve living and structurally intact cells and tissues. 

Successful cryopreservation of mammalian cells is crucial for medical use and research purposes. However, ice formation at these temperatures — and the resultant increase of concentration of solutes in the remaining liquid fraction — can be damaging to cells; especially intracellular ice formation (IIF) which is the main cause of cell death for cells cryopreserved in solution.

While the exact mechanistic process for the damage caused by IIF is not known, the plasma membrane plays a key role in all popular theories: either allowing extracellular ice to enter the cell or catalysing the nucleation of intracellular ice. 

Cells can generally tolerate supercooling of about 2-10°C before IIF occurs but this is affected by extracellular temperatures and different osmalities of solutions (which affects cell volume).

In this study the number of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) undergoing intracellular ice formation at different degrees of supercooling were examined on a cryostage. Intracellular freezing can be detected by the darkening of cells. Cell survival after thawing was determined using a membrane integrity assay. In the picture above, the cells with intact membranes can be seen in green and the cells with damaged membranes can be seen in red.

The cryomicroscope system consisted of the Linkam freeze drying stage (FDCS196), T94 temperature controller, liquid nitrogen pump and a Nikon Eclipse 80i microscope. Temperature was set using Linkam’s Linksys 32 temperature control software.

The team found that the smaller cells in a heterogeneous cell population (and those that were smaller as a result of osmotic dehydration) could withstand more supercooling before experiencing IIF. This knowledge could be used to develop novel cryopreservation techniques. 

They told us: "cryomicroscopy allowed us to record the formation of intracellular ice (lethal for cells in suspension) in individual HUVECs, and link this to individual cell volume and the amount of solution supercooling. Our work demonstrates that larger cells are more likely to form intracellular ice. This type of detailed understanding will lead to improved ability to design superior cryopreservation protocols for cells for medical use or distribution for research."

You can read more on their work here

By Frances Coles

Linkam's New Look

Our longer-term users may have noticed some changes in our appearance and branding over the last few months, and we are now pleased to unveil our new-look packaging. 

We have replaced the more resource-intensive plastic cases with fully recyclable packaging: cardboard boxes & sleeves and special plastazote foam which can be crumbed and re-used with resin in applications such as safety floors for playgrounds. We've also introduced more user friendly storage for your stage accessories. 

With the demands for raw materials ever growing — and space in landfills ever decreasing — it is becoming more important as individuals and businesses to help ease the strain on the environment where we can.

So not only are they more environmentally friendly, but we think they look pretty good too!

By Frances Coles 

Marine Food Chain in Peril

Ocean Acidification caused by increasing CO2 emissions  combined with global climate change and rising sea temperatures  is putting severe stress on many marine organisms.

Calcifying organisms such as sea urchins, oysters, corals, calcareous plankton and pteropods (also known as sea butterflies) are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification, as it reduces the saturation states of calcium carbonate minerals in the ocean, making it harder for them to both produce and maintain their CaCO3 skeletons and shells.

A team from the Hofmann Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara, are studying the impacts of ocean acidification in calcifying marine invertebrates such as the pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica (pictured). 

    Pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica. Photo taken by the Hofmann Group, using a Wild M37 stereomicroscope and Linkam PE120 stage  


Pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica. Photo taken by the Hofmann Group, using a Wild M37 stereomicroscope and Linkam PE120 stage  

The team are based at the McCurdo research station in Antarctica, where they captured these fantastic images. 

    Aurora in Antarctica, photo by Jim Janoso  


Aurora in Antarctica, photo by Jim Janoso  

With the help of Jim Janoso from Northern Focus Optical Inc. they were also able to take this great footage of a swimming juvenile Limacina helicina antarctica, using a Wild M37 stereomicroscope and a Linkam PE120 stage. 

The group hope to understand the molecular and physiological responses of Limacina helicina antarctica to these increases in temperature and acidity. Using data from durafet-based pH sensors that have been deployed in the area since 2010, the team can predict future sea conditions and investigate the effect of these on the metabolism, gene expressions and shell morphology. 

Although small, pteropods are extremely environmentally important. They are a source of food for a huge range of species (from krill to whales, and many economically valuable fish species). Dr Gretchen Hofmann, professor of Marine Biology at the USCB and principal investigator of the Hofmann group, said "It's possible by 2050 [pteropods] may not be able to make a shell anymore. If we lose these organisms, the impact on the food chain will be catastrophic". 

Hoffman explains that as the acidity of the sea increases the pteropod larvae have to "re-tune" their metabolisms in order to make a shell. These strenuous physiological changes however make Limacina helicina antarctica less able to cope with the rising sea temperatures, and result in an organism of decreased size. 

You can follow the group's research both on their Facebook page and their  website

    Stage set-up, with Linkam PE120 in vertical position 


Stage set-up, with Linkam PE120 in vertical position 

By Frances Coles


Putting Students First

    Linkam's Michael Schwertner demonstrating the CMS196 cryo-correlative stage to participants Tanmay Bharat and Swetha Vijayakrishnan


Linkam's Michael Schwertner demonstrating the CMS196 cryo-correlative stage to participants Tanmay Bharat and Swetha Vijayakrishnan

At Linkam we like to encourage and support the next generation of scientists.

Towards the end of September we attended the UK’s first Correlative Light and Electron Microscopy (CLEM) interactive workshop. This was held at the prestigious Francis Crick Institute, in London, and will take place in alternate years with the European EMBO CLEM course in Bristol.

The course was fully booked with eight participants from eight different institutes in the UK working in pairs throughout the week to learn different CLEM workflows. The Linkam CMS196 Cryo-Correlative stage was used during the workshop so students could get practical experience of the system and see how it fits into the Cryo-CLEM workflow.

Cryo-CLEM is a new and emerging technique to combine the individual advantages from both Fluorescence and Electron Microscopy.

Electron microscopy (EM) provides structural information at very high resolution but can give only restricted insight into biological and chemical processes due to limitations in staining and sample preparation processes, whereas fluorescence microscopy is a very sensitive method to detect biological, chemical and genetic processes and events within living cells. This technique is responsible for some of the astonishing photomicroscopy images and videos you can now find.

Cryo-CLEM images the same sample location with both techniques and superimposes the complementing information — it is a powerful tool to gain new biological insights and investigate rare or dynamic molecular events.

Below is a picture of mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells, prepared by PhD student Patricia Goggin and captured by Linkam's Michael Schwertner during the ‘correlative cryo-fluorescence leading to cryo-electron tomography or cryo soft x-ray tomography’ practical. This cryofluorescence image shows the cell nuclei in blue, mitochondria in green and filamentous actin in red. 

    Cryofluorescence image of mouse embryonic fibroblast cells taken at the workshop. The cell nuclei are shown in blue, mitochondria in green and filamentous actin in red. 


Cryofluorescence image of mouse embryonic fibroblast cells taken at the workshop. The cell nuclei are shown in blue, mitochondria in green and filamentous actin in red. 

We had a great time showing off some of the features of our cyro-CLEM stage whilst also continuing to learn about some of its applications, and our thanks go to everyone involved, especially Dr Marie-Charlotte Domart, Dr Raffa Carzaniga, Dr Lucy Collinson and Dr Paul Verkade.

By Frances Coles 

Paper of the Month

Linkam stages and equipment are used in a huge range of scientific research worldwide, in fact there’s so much going on we can’t always keep up with it all. Search ‘Linkam’ in Google Scholar to see the true extent of applications for our stages.

While application notes can already be found for many of our stages, we have decided that from now on we will also share some of this research with you here on the blog.

Each month we will choose our favourite paper featuring a Linkam stage from Google Scholar, and post it as ‘Paper of the Month’ — we hope you will find this work as interesting as we do!

In the past our instruments have been used by major manufacturers and institutions for a wide variety of applications, from improving the taste of chocolate and ice-cream, testing the rubber of trainers and formulating hair care products, to studying the evolution of icy satellites and imaging cell autophagosomes to aid research into cancer.

We love to know what our stages and equipment are being used for and are always happy to hear from you with research updates or feedback, so please feel free to contact us.

By Frances Coles

Paris to Geneva, by bike

    John at the end of the ride, in front of Lake Geneva


John at the end of the ride, in front of Lake Geneva

Last week Linkam’s technical support guru John Hart, accompanied by his sister and father — former Olympic rowers Sarah Winckless and Mike Hart (yes, that’s right two Olympians in the family!), cycled 348 miles from Paris to Geneva to raise money for the Scottish Huntington’s Association, which operates specialist support services for people living with Huntington’s disease. They cycled for 6-7 hours per day, and climbed a total of 18,500 feet. 

This is a cause close to their hearts, and so far their efforts have raised an incredible £4,125, all of which will go directly to the charity. The journey began in 2012 with a cycle from London to Paris, also to raise money for Huntington’s. Last week’s stretch from Paris to Geneva saw them tackling more challenging terrain, with some tough mountain climbs, and our congratulations go out to them all.

The ride

Day 1 – Paris to Sens (84 miles)
Day 2 – Sens to Semur-en-Auxois (85 miles)
Day 3 – Semur-en-Auxois to Lons-le-Saunier (101 miles)
Day 4 – Lons-le-Saunier to Geneva (77 miles)

You can show your support here.

By Frances Coles 

    Sarah, John and Mike at the highest point of the ride, just before their descent into Geneva


Sarah, John and Mike at the highest point of the ride, just before their descent into Geneva

Tomorrow's World

Dubbed the ‘second industrial revolution’ by New Scientist, 3D printing is transforming the way we live and work and has already been adopted by a wide range of major industries for innovation, prototyping and product development purposes. 

Some estimates suggest that the 3D printing industry could be worth as much as $20 billion in worldwide revenue by 2020, up from ~$3 billion in 2013.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), returned to the headlines last month with the FDA’s approval of the first 3D printed pharmaceutical pill. In a world first, Spritam (levetiracetam) — a drug to control epileptic seizures — will be produced by pharmaceutical company Aprecia using 3D printing technology.

The use of 3D printing in this instance allowed the company to create a more porous pill that dissolves more quickly on contact with liquid, making it easier for patients to swallow high doses. 

At Linkam we hate to be left behind when it comes to new technology so a couple of years ago we invested in our very own 3D printer to see how it could help us, and in turn help you.

Our printer is from market leaders Stratasys and uses the same technology that brought you RobocopIronman and Jurassic World's dinosaurs

The Stratasys Fortus 250mc uses fluid deposition modelling (FDM) technology. This builds objects layer-by-layer from the bottom up by heating and extruding thermoplastic filament.

Here’s how the process works at Linkam:

1.      Our R&D team create a component using Computer-aided design (CAD) software. 

2.       Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software reads the 3D CAD file, and calculates a route to extrude thermoplastic and any necessary support material.

3.       The 3D printer heats the thermoplastic to a semi-liquid state and extrudes an ultra-fine thread along the route. Where support is needed, the printer deposits a removable material that acts as scaffolding.

4.       The support material is broken away or dissolved, and the component is ready to use. 

What are the advantages over conventional techniques?

Firstly, user time is significantly reduced when compared to conventional machining inputs and processes.

Secondly, it enables the production of lightweight optimised components with complex geometries and cavities that are problematic, or even impossible, to make with traditional techniques. 

There is also far less waste. Traditional manufacturing relies on a subtractive process that often removes as much as 95% of the raw material, whereas additive machines use the exact amount of material required for production.

And finally, when the need arises, we can send prototype components to our customer to ensure the part fits their system.

How is it helping us?

While we will still continue to machine our finished products conventionally, this technology has proved invaluable for prototyping and product development purposes. It allows our research and development team to test definitively whether a new concept will be usable, particularly in terms of assembly and accessibility, without having to spend 2-3 weeks machining the product. During prototype creation it can mean that limitations of traditional machining and cutter access no longer apply, and even that several machined parts can be combined into one.

Additionally, there is less potential for error when developers have access to physical, tactile components, rather than just a digital concept, and a physical model early on in the cycle helps to convey design intent to the whole team… seeing is believing!

3D printing also reduces the demand for machining time. At Linkam we use traditional, small-scale, in-house manufacturing techniques so this is a big advantage. Ultimately, the use of 3D printing in product development should allow us to get new products to the market more quickly.

Some items, for example jigs & fixtures and our new stage stands, are now purpose designed to be created via 3D printing, and we have recently been able to produce two integral components for our correlative stage (CMS196) that would otherwise be very challenging to make.

What about custom designs?

We are often approached by scientists and OEMs looking to design custom solutions for analytical limitations in their work and instrumentation. Many of our now standardized systems started out as an idea brought to us by a scientist either dissatisfied with what was available, or looking to create something completely new.

We work very closely with our customers, creating sketches, designs and prototypes which are continually refined until the customer is happy. The use of 3D printing allows us to create prototypes more quickly, and get feedback on the design from the user, before committing it to a machined product. 

Last but not least, it means we can provide exact scale replicas of our existing stages and stage clamps to prospective customers, to ensure compatibility with existing equipment before placing an order. If this is something that sounds like it might be of interest to you, please get in touch with a member of our team.

It’s safe to say, we’re big fans!

    3D printed components for Linkam Imaging Station prototype 


3D printed components for Linkam Imaging Station prototype 

    3D printed Linkam Imaging Station prototype 


3D printed Linkam Imaging Station prototype 

By Frances Coles 

Research Matters

 The new RH95 Humidity Controller 

The new RH95 Humidity Controller 

When an opportunity arises the Linkam team like to get involved in research using our equipment.

Caroline Feltham, from our sales and marketing department, has been working with Vincent Larat — a Raman application scientist with HORIBA Scientific — using the new RH95 Humidity Controller for pharmaceutical analysis. They successfully profiled the changes that occur in the hydration state of anhydrous lactose and theophylline when samples are maintained at 95% relative humidity (RH) and 25°C.

The structural properties of pharmaceutical formulations can be altered when they are exposed to warm and humid conditions, for example during storage or in tropical countries. Ingredients may undergo changes in their hydration level, which can lead to a change in form and can have a significant effect on the efficacy of the drug.

It is important therefore, that the physical and structural properties of the active and inactive ingredients (and their interactions) are fully analysed before the drug is introduced to the market.

Anhydrous lactose is found as an inactive ingredient in a variety of different medications. It is useful as it contains no water, meaning it will not react with medications that are sensitive to moisture. But it is vital to understand the conditions at which anhydrous lactose converts to its monohydrated form, as this will interact differently with the other ingredients.

Theophylline is a menthylxanthine drug used in therapy for respiratory diseases. Hydration state affects the solubility, and consequently the bioavailability, of theophylline.

The combined use of Raman microspectroscopy (performed on the LabRAM HR Evolution from HORIBA Scientific), and a Linkam Scientific temperature and humidity control cell, allowed for accurate mapping of the point of transformation from the anhydrous form to monohydrated form. 

The full article can be found here

By Frances Coles 

Seeds of Change

 Seeding Labs help talented scientists in developing countries, providing them with equipment and resources

Seeding Labs help talented scientists in developing countries, providing them with equipment and resources

We recently discovered an amazing organisation called Seeding Labs and wanted to share it with you here on the blog. 

Seeding Labs is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing lab equipment and resources, including training and access to key influencers in their scientific field, to enable talented scientists in developing countries to conduct life changing research.

In countries routinely afflicted with problems such as food shortages, extreme weather events and disease, scientific research might not immediately be seen as an important beneficiary of charitable support. However, localised research facilities can be a crucial and effective component in creating the kind of sustainable and diversified economies that will help developing nations lift themselves out of poverty, and cope with such challenges.

Seeding Labs has recently been recognised for its outstanding contribution to global science and development, being named as one of the world’s top 10 most innovative not-for-profit companies by Fast Company. Founder & CEO Dr Nina Dudnik was also honoured with the John F Kennedy New Frontier Award in 2014.  

Nina Dudnik established Seeding Labs after returning to the United States from a Fulbright fellowship in Africa.  In the USA she observed the routine discarding of functioning equipment, whilst in Africa she had been working with highly skilled scientists who lacked access to even the basic tools of scientific research. Dudnik identified the mutually beneficial opportunity for an organisation that could successfully connect this vast supply with this overwhelming demand.

Seeding Labs has so far provided over $2.5 million worth of surplus and donated equipment to ~15,000 laboratories and scientists in 22 countries. They also run training and fellowship programs, supporting students and researchers in their work, developing treatments for tuberculosis and malaria, expanding access to clean drinking water, training doctors, improving crops, and much more.

In this article for the Wall Street Journal, Dudnik discusses Africa’s 'scientific deficit' and how the right scientific tools could have enabled West African scientists to mobilise an appropriate public-health response to Ebola much sooner thus reducing the impact of the crisis.  

Looking ahead, Seeding Labs anticipates tripling the organisations current impact by shipping equipment to 45,000 recipients by 2016. The company is supported in this goal through equipment donations from universities and corporations and a recent $3 million grant provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

We can’t wait to see what might be achieved in the coming years, as a result of Seeding Labs work. 

By Frances Coles


New arrival at Linkam

    Frances Coles has recently joined Linkam's sales and marketing team


Frances Coles has recently joined Linkam's sales and marketing team

As the newest member of the Sales and Marketing team I would like to say a warm hello to all the staff and customers of Linkam. I’m Frances Coles, and I will be assisting Duncan, Ricky, Caroline and John with the marketing of Linkam’s remarkable products.

I graduated with a degree in Environmental Science, and after a year in marketing and design I am looking forward to be returning to the scientific world, whilst also being able to put my new skills to best use. I will be working particularly on email-campaigns, application notes, press releases and social media, and I hope I will be able to use youthful enthusiasm to my advantage!