Single-cell mass spectrometry

Yokogawa technology has been selected for the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s next-generation technology transfer program. The technology has made a major step forward towards the development of a confocal image single-cell drug discovery support system.

OK, its not what you expect to read about on an instrumentation and control newsletter website blog, but instrumentation gets into some interesting areas. One of the real advantages of the University system as I saw it, in Cambridge, was that you had researchers from many different disciplines side by side at dinner, in the bar, or just happening to talk to each other. OK, I left there 50 years ago, but still go back for the occasional event/dinner etc – why not, I had fun there. Last month I went back for the 50th anniversary dinner – presumably Churchill College want to make sure I remember them when I write a new Will – and sat next to a young Japanese lady who was using a Yokogawa confocal scanner to monitor the neuron messages in the brain of a fruit fly. Apparently the fruit fly does not think about much, other than fruit, so his neurons are easiest to track, and this is the technology you need.

I have to say its not easy to keep track after several aperitifs and two different courses, with the wine, but for an electrical engineer cum journalist I kept up. So now read what the real description says….

Yokogawa Electric Corporation has announced that its confocal image single-cell drug discovery support system has been selected for the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s (JST) next-generation technology transfer program (NexTEP). NexTEP was created to promote efforts by companies to find practical applications for the technologies (including those covered by patents) and research findings of universities and public research institutions.

Through this undertaking, JST aims to develop a new drug-discovery support system that will integrate a single-cell mass spectrometry method developed by the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center’s Laboratory for Single Cell Mass Spectrometry with high-speed imaging and high-precision positioning technologies that Yokogawa has developed for its confocal scanner units and drug-discovery support devices.

For the development of new drugs, multiple cells are typically ground to analyse intracellular metabolism and thereby verify the efficacy and side effects of a particular candidate drug. A drawback of this technique is that molecular changes in individual cells cannot be analysed in sufficient detail. In addition, large numbers of animal and human cells are required.

With this new system, JST aims to clarify how molecules of a candidate drug reach a specific cell and the changes that take place there. Single-cell mass spectrometry is a technique for the analysis of target molecules that have been suctioned out from individual cells as they are being observed under a microscope. The system that is to be developed will speed up this process by automating the identification of cells and molecules where unusual changes have taken place, and automatically capturing target molecules. In addition to speeding up analysis, this will reduce costs.

Yokogawa will work with RIKEN to develop a system that will accelerate the development of new drugs by enabling the quick and precise analysis of the effect that candidate drugs have on intracellular metabolism.

Single-cell mass spectrometry is a method whereby cell molecules are suctioned out using a microfine glass tube (nanospray chip), ionised with an ionising organic solvent, and analysed (to identify type and amount) using a mass spectrometer. Performed under a microscope, this method is fast and the analysis results are highly precise. While a large sample is needed with conventional methods, this analysis method requires just one cell, and it can also quantify intermediate metabolites and trace metabolic pathways to final metabolites.

About Yokogawa’s confocal scanner unit and drug-discovery support system

The confocal scanner is a scanning unit that focuses laser beams on individual points on a plane to acquire tomographic images of live cells at selected depths, without the need for slicing the sample. Thanks to its clear images and industry-leading imaging speed, Yokogawa’s confocal scanner is widely used in research institutions around the world. The Yokogawa drug-discovery support system that incorporates this scanner unit is an automated testing tool that looks at cell functions, administers drug candidate compounds to cells, takes pictures of induced intracellular changes, and analyses reactions. This system also leads the industry in screening speed and resolution.


Measurement of particle size in drilling muds

A new application note from Malvern Instruments explores the role of particle size and the importance of particle size measurement in optimizing the formulation of drilling muds used in oil extraction processes.

The particle size of drilling mud components exerts a significant influence on the performance of the final drilling mud product. Rapid, reliable measurement and control of particle size is especially important when tailoring drilling mud formulations for individual geological situations and drilling operations. This new publication focuses on the use of laser diffraction particle sizing for this application, exploring the steps involved and providing examples of typical data generated. Delivering specialist information and advice, this application note adds to Malvern’s extensive range of expert resources and is downloadable from the company website.

Malvern’s highly robust Mastersizer 3000 system is widely used in drilling mud analysis. With a dynamic range spanning 0.01 to 3500 microns and exceptional sample dispersion capabilities, the Mastersizer 3000 delivers precise, particle size measurements for both water- and oil- based muds. Its small footprint compared with previous Mastersizer models enables its use in many different environments.

Powerful Mastersizer software provides automatic data quality checks that guide the user towards good measurements, particularly important in routine QC where rapid, robust measurement is essential and where the system may be used by multiple operators. The software includes support for method transfer from other particle sizing instruments, whether older Malvern systems or those from other manufacturers, and Malvern specialists will provide comprehensive applications support to limit the need for any specification changes.

In a recent extension to the Mastersizer family, Malvern has added the new Mastersizer 3000E, an entry level laser diffraction particle sizing system. It has a measurement range of 0.1 to 1000 microns and is offered with semi-automated wet dispersion units. The performance of the Mastersizer 3000E can be extended over time, with add-on software packages providing users with access to automated dispersion units and the advanced analysis and method development support capabilities of the Mastersizer 3000.

New deal with RheoSense over low viscosity measurement

Malvern Instruments has announced an exclusive global distribution agreement with RheoSense, Inc. (San Ramon, CA, USA) to promote, market, sell and support the VROC product range into industrial applications. The agreement enables Malvern to add the mVROCi, microfluidic Viscometer/Rheometer On a Chip, to its existing portfolio of rotational and capillary rheometers, extending the company’s offering to industrial customers across the globe. Delivering accurate, robust, fully enclosed viscosity measurement, at high shear rates, the m-VROCi addresses an established need to measure low viscosity fluids under process relevant conditions. The results have proven application for the characterization and enhancement of inkjet inks, coatings, rechargeable batteries, lubricants, chemical and food additives, and drink formulations.

Steve Carrington, Product Manager for Malvern Instruments. “The m-VROCi is highly complementary to the existing Malvern rheological portfolio, extending robust, fully enclosed (no solvent loss) flow curve measurement into areas that simply aren’t accessible with alternative rheological instrumentation.” The m-VROCi is a hybrid microfluidic and MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical-system) sensor-based instrument. It determines viscosity by controlling sample volume flow rate and measuring changes in pressure as the sample passes along a microfluidic scale flow channel with embedded MEMS pressure sensors.

iPad type liquid lenses find industrial uses

This article appeared in the December issue of the INSIDER Newsletter: while not being a typical automation and control story it has some relevance to control systems, used to upgrade the performance of a simple sensor.

A news item from Arden Photonix attracted my interest. In the UK, the National Physical Laboratory has been using commercially available liquid lens technology, as developed for mobile phone cameras, to simplify the design of the measurement devices used to characterize light beams from lasers, without sacrificing any of the accuracy available with the conventional slow, cumbersome and difficult to adjust devices used at present. The BQM-50 from Arden is ideal for measuring lasers used in surveying, precision measurement, laser radar (LIDAR) and retinal hazard assessment.

So what is a liquid lens?

A liquid lens is a very small lens device that uses an electronic control system to change focal length (to focus) and change optical axis (for optical image stabilization, ie to reduce camera shake effects) – all within a few milliseconds.

The idea for this invention came from research on the phenomenon known as “Electro-wetting” by Professor Bruno Berge, in Lyon, France, with the original patents being issued in 2002. Prof Berge started working on liquid interfaces from 1991 at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, in co-operation with the Université Joseph Fourier of Grenoble, where he had two years previously done his PhD. Berge became fascinated by Electro-wetting, a topic first investigated by Gabriel Lippmann around 1900: Lippmann went on to win the Nobel prize for colour photography in 1908.

Bruno Berge (EPO picture)

Bruno Berge (EPO picture)

Berge believed that manipulating the shape of a water drop would also change the way it refracted light, which – for all practical purposes – would turn it into a lens. A drop of water affected by electro-wetting can function as a variable magnifying glass: so two clear, non-miscible liquids of the same density, one being electronically controlled water, can serve as a lens, depending on the curvature of the interface between them. If the second liquid is insulating (an oil), and not affected by the field, this curvature changes when a voltage is applied, enabling an image to be captured and focused (using a standard type of electronic feedback control system). The two liquids are sealed and held in a metal casing that is typically smaller than 10mm in diameter.

Where to use this?

Berge first approached Canon cameras with the invention, but got no interest (However, see later!) So with French state funding, and investment fund backing, Berge founded the company VariOptic in 2002. In 2007 they established a production line in China, and in 2009 the first barcode reader with a VariOptic lens appeared on the market. In 2011, VariOptic was acquired by Parrot SA, and will focus on industrial applications: a separate company, Optilux, was formed in the USA to bring the liquid lens technology to smartphones and tablets. In 2013, Berge was selected by the European Patent Office (EPO) as a finalist in their annual review of patented inventions.

Machine vision manufacturer Cognex is another early adopter of the technology. Cognex has equipped both handheld and fixed versions of its ID readers with VariOptic liquid lenses. Lattice Semiconductor Corporation has also announced a new video camera development kit, equipped with VariOptic liquid lens technology.

* The Canon 2013 published patent on electro-wetting technology for lens construction uses the electrodes in two separated fluids to act as pumps, to transfer different amounts of the fluids to cavities within a separate lens element. Fairly complex, but we will wait to see if the complexity is justified by any advantages, one of which is to circumvent the Berge patent that they turned down over ten years ago.

* The last recent technology step in lens construction was made by Peter Dollond in around 1760, for which he was granted one of the first UK patents: his recorded idea was to produce an achromatic lens by using a doublet (twin lenses nestled together) made of crown and flint glass, to be used as the objective (big) end of a telescope. Things were simpler in those days. His sister, Sarah, married Jesse Ramsden, and these two men were the best telescope makers in the world, working in the Strand, the Haymarket and then Piccadilly in London between 1760-1800. One apprentice, who then went on to work for Jesse Ramsden, was called Matthew Berge, and he took over from Ramsden in around 1800 and worked in the Piccadilly premises from 1802-1817. Many years ago he gave your editor, via Ebay, a lovely sample of the type of nautical telescope he constructed there.

Telescope by Matthew Berge, ca1800

Telescope by Matthew Berge, ca1800

Who knows, maybe Prof Bruno Berge comes from the same lineage? Matthew Berge constructed these telescopes for use by the ship’s officers on the wooden sailing ships used by Nelson’s fleet, fighting at Trafalgar against the French and Spanish: what would he think today about these French-developed lenses housed in an iPad?




E+H acquires Kaiser Optical Systems

Endress+Hauser is to acquire the US company Kaiser Optical Systems. Regulatory authorities in the United States have approved that the former parent company, Rockwell Collins, is to complete the transaction initially announced in August. The acquisition is effective from 22 November 2013.

Kaiser Optical Systems is a world leader in spectrographic instrumentation and applied holographic technology. Principal products include Raman sensors and instrumentation, advanced holographic components for spectroscopy, telecommunications, astronomy and ultra-fast sciences, and display systems for aircraft.

The company employs a staff of 76 in its headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Seven employees in an office in Lyon, France, coordinate European sales activities. The terms of the transaction will not be disclosed.

Technology with high value

The Kaiser Optical Systems core competencies are in the field of Raman spectroscopy. This technology is based on the interaction of an inclined beam of light with the material analyzed: single photons transmit energy on molecules, and reciprocally also molecules transfer energy on single photons. The resulting light diffusion creates a specific pattern for every material – comparable to a fingerprint – and thus provides information on composition and consistency.

Kaiser Optical analyzers work fast, reliably and precisely and can also be used on inline processes. “That’s the big potential of advanced analytics,” said Klaus Endress, CEO of the Endress+Hauser Group, emphasizing the strategic dimension of the acquisition. “Raman technology can replace laborious sample-taking and consequent laboratory analysis, enabling customers to continuously control quality and optimize their processes.”

Rockwell Collins

Rockwell Collins Inc is a pioneer in the development and deployment of innovative communication and aviation electronic solutions for both commercial and government applications. The expertise in flight deck avionics, cabin electronics, mission communications, information management, and simulation and training is delivered by approximately 19,000 employees, and a global service and support network that crosses 27 countries.

PAC adds oil in water analyzers

PAC, the Houston based provider of advanced analytical instruments for laboratories and online process applications,  announce that Advanced Sensors, a supplier of oil in water analyzers, has joined the PAC team. Advanced Sensors has served oil and gas and marine customers with such accurate and reliable process analyzers since 2006.

The Advanced Sensors oil in water analyzers help to ensure process and environmental control by giving early warning indicators of leaks and discharges. Advanced Sensors has combined numerous technologies, such as ultrasonics, fluorescence, video microscopy, optical spectrometry and mass spectrometry, to ensure that its analyzers stay clean and provide precise readings.

“Advanced Sensors provides a proprietary technology that is the preferred choice when customers focus on meeting their regulatory oil in water discharge requirements with confidence. This technology will make the PAC Process Analytics division even stronger and more competitive,” said Eric Schellenberger, PAC President. “With its strong product technology and its penetration in the oil and gas production market segment, Advanced Sensors will enable PAC to deliver a highly differentiated technology to our current process refining customers and expand our market penetration in the upstream market.”

Krohne NIR spectrometer announced

On July 1st, Bayer Technology Services (BTS) and Krohne signed a distribution agreement to commercialize the SpectroBAY inline NIR spectrometer system. The agreement comprises the worldwide marketing and sales of this analytical system in the chemical processing industry (CPI) outside the Bayer group, through Krohne.

SpectroBAY is an in-line optical spectrometer system that uses near-infrared wavelengths (NIR) to determine the composition of liquids, solids and gases in real time. The information about the composition of process streams can be used for closed loop control. By knowing the composition at any time, chemical producers can operate their process at the chemical and economical optimum with as high yield as possible. Applications for the SpectroBAY range from incoming chemicals (reactants, catalysts etc.), chemicals being converted (reaction tracking) to quality/purity analysis of final products. Since its development in 2001, the system has gained a track history of more than 400 applications with over 600 measuring points in chemical plants worldwide.

Due to the large success as a compact optical analysis system which can even be applied in explosive areas, BTS decided to make SpectroBAY available outside the Bayer group. Out of an assessment that included 30 companies, Krohne was chosen to become the exclusive sales partner in the CPI.

“We have been working with Krohne on many projects for quite some time. With Krohne we have chosen a partner with a very good fit of company cultures, a strong track record of bringing technologies into the market and very good access to customers in Europe, NAFTA and China which we will be focusing on first” says Dr. Klaus Sommer, Senior Vice President and Head of Customer and Product Management at Bayer Technology Services.

Stephan Neuburger, Managing Director Krohne Group, adds: “Efficiency is the key-word of our times, hence plant owners and operators desperately need real-time measurement and control. They cannot afford to not exploit the full and entire plant capacity. So large plants are increasingly upgraded with NIR spectrometer systems. SpectroBAY represents a new flagship product in our analysis portfolio for this market. In addition, BTS will benefit from our proven experience as well as from our well-established and diversified customer relationships worldwide.”

ABB acquires crane and harbour systems expertise

 The acquisition of the APS Technology Group of San Diego, California, expands the ABB portfolio for container terminal automation to optimize cargo handling and tracking from ship to gate.

APS Technology Group develops and markets solutions for the port industry. The acquisition will expand ABB’s crane system portfolio to the container terminal market. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2013.

Established in 2002, APS employs approximately 50 full-time people in its headquarters in San Diego, California, and its office in Long Beach, California. APS is a leading global supplier of vision based automation solutions that identify containers, trucks, rail equipment, and other transport assets for ports and intermodal container facilities. These systems help container terminals, port authorities and shipping lines to streamline their operations by automating manual processes within gate, vessel, rail and yard operations.

This addition will help ABB to expand its crane systems portfolio for the container terminal and adjacent supply chain markets. APS will join ABB’s Process Automation division.

“The acquisition of APS is an important milestone for us to expand our terminal automation offering and provide our customers with added-value integrated solutions,” said Heikki Soljama, head of ABB’s Marine and Cranes business unit. “This acquisition is a good strategic fit for our existing solution portfolio, and will further strengthen our product portfolio.”

“Joining ABB will enable us to extend our support and engineering capabilities as we expand into new geographic regions,” said Russ Scheppmann, CEO and founder of APS. “Our customers will also benefit from ABB’s global reach in sales and service, and combined efforts in R&D projects.”