Rheology by the Rhine

   AERC 2014 was held at the magnificent Karlsruhe conference centre


AERC 2014 was held at the magnificent Karlsruhe conference centre

The 9th Annual European Rheology conference (AERC) took place last week in the cultural city of Karlsruhe, located on the banks of the River Rhine in south west Germany.

Karlsruhe itself has a history of innovation with the inventor of the automobile, Carl Benz, and the physicist who discovered electromagnetic waves, Heinrich Hertz, both having roots to the city. Today it is considered one of the most prominent tech cities in Europe so it provided the perfect backdrop for the now well established AERC event.

The scientific programme itself was split up into various sections which focused on key rheological topic areas: from food research and biopolymers, to mirco-fluids and the rheology of foams.  

The 500 delegates were treated to a fantastic conference dinner which was held at the magnificent, and modern, Karlsruhe Centre for Art and Media. The evening was full of great food and drink, beautiful artwork and a stirring live performance from one of the country’s best orchestras.

This was a great opportunity to interact with the delegates - the majority of whom already have a linkam CSS450 stage - to gather their thoughts and perspectives on where they see this expanding field of science being in a few years time.

I would like to thank the whole AERC committee for putting on such a great show. We hope  the 10th show in this fascinating series will be just as good, if not better.

By Ricky Patel

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

Size Matters

At the University of Montpellier 2, the Colloidal Metallurgy team are designing a system to understand the properties of colloidal polycrystals. The aim is to relate the macroscopic mechanical properties to the microscopic texture of the polycrystal. The team will use a combination of experimental techniques, including optical microscopy and rheology

 CSS450 Linkam stage in the apparatus.

The developed colloidal polycrystal model is made up of micelles formed from a commercial molecule: Pluronic F108 block copolymer. At high concentration these micelles self-assemble to form a crystalline phase. Micelles are therefore the equivalent of atoms in an atomic crystal, except that they are two orders of magnitude larger.

The team of researchers is working with a Linkam CSS450 stage to measure the mechanical properties of the crystal. They are able to collect information on the local dynamics of the crystallite organization under an applied shear strain. Using this stage allows the team to visualise their experiments in real-time.   

By varying the crystallization rate and crystallites size, the team expects to explain the different microscopic mechanisms at work.

The city of Montpellier is situated in the south of France, and is home to three independent Universities each with the name Montpellier. The University of Montpellier 2 excells in science.

Research at the University is ongoing and we look forward to more updates.


By Caroline Feltham

Thermoplastic Elastomers 2011 - Brussels

 Linkam equipment on display at TPE 2011

Last week, I again delved into the world of Polymer science when I attended the 14th International Conference on Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE's) which was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Brussels.

The main focus of the two day event was on how this innovative class of speciality engineered materials can be used in various different applications. These materials provide a hybridity between plastic processing and elastomeric functionality which has lead to an increase in market demand within the medical, industrial, electrical fields, just to name a few. The variety of applications for TPE's was highlighted by the diversity in the contents of the talks; which ranged from the use of TPE's in athletic footwear to how they can be used to reduce the cost of baby diapers.   

There was a lot of interest from the delegates in our Linkam stages and there was much intrigue in regards to the TST350 (Tensile Stress Testing Stage) and CSS450 (Optical Rheology Stage) which were being exhibited at the conference. 

It was a thoroughly enjoyable few days, not least for fantastic Belgian chocolate shop located right opposite the hotel! I would like to thank Helen and Sharon at iSmithers Rapra for their hospitality and for putting on such a great show. 

Posted by Ricky Patel

Linkam CSS450 System used in Polymer Crystallization studies

The Linkam CSS450 Shear System has been used in exciting research by the Polymer Technology Group at the University of Salerno to study polymer crystallization enhanced by flow. An improved understanding of flow-enhanced crystallization can help to tailor advanced transformation processes like injection-moulding and extrusion.

The Linkam CSS450 was chosen for its ability to accurately control changes in temperature and shear rate on the micro scale. Professor Pantani said that "Prior to our having the CSS450, understanding the analysis was just qualitative. Now we are able to complete unique quantitative analyses. We have been able to calculate the evolution of the nucleation density during the crystallization under shear using our own specialised image analysis software."

Thanks to Professors Giuseppe Titomanlio, Roberto Pantani and their colleagues at the University of Salerno for sharing their interesting application with us.

Posted by Rosie Hider

Fresh Blood at Linkam


Blood being sheared in CSS450 shearing cell (50X Olympus Objective lens)

There's nothing quite like fresh blood to shake things up and really get a company buzzing along with renewed vigour and motivation.
 I'm not, as you may have thought, referring to the use of our optical shearing stage to study the deformation and aggregation of blood cells under shear stress - as seen in the above image - although that may have been a nice but blatant plug for this fantastic instrument.  No, I am referring to the influx of yet more new talent here at Linkam.


We have recruited another couple of new R&D guys, James Wilkins, who comes to us from Goodrich Engine Control Systems and who rides quite possibly the loudest Triumph Bonneville in Surrey, is working with our mech R&D team and Tom Phillips, who just started last week, fresh with his M.Eng in electronic engineering straight out of University of Newcastle, will be working with our electronics and software guys to develop all kinds of new controllers, notably the new humidity generator.

We also have a new Stores controller.  Russ Forward has, in just a few short weeks, totally revolutionised the control of our stores and has lots of new ideas to improve the efficiency even further.

Lastly, we have Ricky Patel, also a recent graduate, but from University of Surrey and a Medicinal Chemist, joining the sales and marketing team in a customer technical support role.  Ricky will be knocking out lots of great 'How To' videos and updating all the video manuals not to mention helping customers with installation questions.

These guys have all brought buckets of enthusiasm to Linkam and there is no doubt that they will help us develop and support lots of great new products in the future.