Lab Business May/June 2018

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Moisture Measurement

David Suzuki Reversing biodiversity decline



May/June 2018

New analyzers deliver lab-quality readings in seconds




The diverse spaces at Western’s Biotron enable a focus on research unlike any in Canada



We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature.



Western University’s Biotron, a hub of leadingedge climate research, houses multiple controlled-environment laboratories and state-ofthe-art analytical and microscopy units.

STANDARDS EDITOR’S note 5 CANADIAN news 6 WORLDWIDE news 7 LAB ware 20 MOMENTS in time 22


New handheld analyzers allow manufacturers to monitor the moisture content in food products.


Do the flip!

How carbon capture technologies are reducing emissions.


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A Smoker’s Guide to Climate Change


t’s irrefutable. Smoking causes lung cancer. Over the last 50 years, public education and billions in research dollars have been dedicated to helping people kick the habit – and the rates are dropping. There are lessons here for living more sustainably. Global ecological decline has been triggered by greenhouse gas emissions which continue to tear away at the ozone layer, deforestation, and the need to feed the world’s burgeoning population. There are disconcerting drops in the number of species. Over the last three decades, insect populations in Europe collapsed by 70 per cent. Here in Canada, migratory birds are returning in greatly diminished numbers. With smoking cessation, while there was no shortage of health warnings historically, it wasn’t until 10 years ago that change became evident when the federal and provincial governments set policies for graphic tobacco advertising and smoke-free areas. Like the effects of cigarettes, climate change is real and it kills. Pollution causes disease. People die from extreme weather conditions. With the Arctic heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world, the reality hit home earlier this summer on social media when a video went viral showing a 4.5-mile section of ice breaking off Greenland’s Helheim glacier. Canada and a new generation of climate change leaders get this. They are advancing the global prerogatives set by the Paris Agreement and are putting words into action – or at least trying. Since 2015, targets for greenhouse gas emissions are moving in the right direction, just slower than hoped. Late last year, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Science Minister, Kirsty Duncan, announced $1.6 million in funding for research in Canada’s high Arctic. Canada’s National Research Council, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institute of Health Research are funding millions in research initiatives across the country. This year’s federal budget proposed an investment of nearly $4 billion in Canada’s research system to support the work of researchers and provide them access to state-of-the-art facilities, like the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Western University’s Biotron and Dr. Paul Hebert’s work on DNA barcoding, featured in this issue. Canada’s corporate sector has also come on board, whether through incentive or corporate responsibility. Moving away from fossil fuels like coal, the manufacturing sector has recognized the opportunities in a clean energy economy. Just look at the growth in electric vehicles. Ontario EV sales more than doubled in 2017. Across Canada, consumers are being rewarded in one way or another for adopting green practices and energy efficiency. There is continued urgency for governments, scientists, the private sector and individuals to collectively take action on climate change. It took more than five decades to influence the number Jana Manolakos of smokers in Canada. The Earth may not have that long. GUEST CONTRIBUTOR


Canadian NEWS De Beers, U of Calgary Offer Scholarships for Female Students

De Beers Canada has introduced six new STEM scholarships for female students at the University of Calgary in support of HeForShe, the United Nations’ solidarity movement engaging male leaders as champions for gender equality. De Beers will provide a total of USD$504,000 in STEM scholarships across Canada by 2020, dedicated to female students with an interest in full-time studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A unique component of the program is a commitment to identify potential female indigenous applicants from the Northwest Territories and northern Ontario.

Portable 3D Measurement Solutions Aid in Labs and Classrooms

Creaform, a maker of portable 3D measurement solutions and engineering services, has launched Creaform Academia, a suite of 3D measurement solutions for the academic market. In the classroom, this professional-grade 3D scanner is a tool for educating future engineers on the concept of 3D scanning and understanding its applications in engineering. For researchers, the suite includes a complete portfolio of 3D measurement technologies suitable for demanding research projects.

Software Developers Get Virtual Assistant

UBC computer scientists have turned Amazon Alexa into a tool for software engineers, tasking the virtual assistant to take care of mundane programming work, helping increase productivity and speed up workflow. It was more than just a matter of teaching Alexa some key phrases and mapping different commands to the work; they also had to figure out common multistep tasks engineers were performing and build a system that could automate those tasks. They believe virtual assistants could be programmed for a variety of occupations including medicine, law, or accounting. 6

May/June 2018 LAB BUSINESS

Finger Prick Test Detects Heart Failure


onitoring for heart failure could get easier, more effective and less expensive using a new finger prick technology, helping people who suffer from chronic heart failure live better and longer. A Canadian first, the technology, which reads BNP levels in the blood, was developed by a Mitacs researcher at the University of Waterloo and with support from LeNano Diagnostics Inc. “BNP is one of the most important cardiac biomarkers used by health professionals to diagnose heart failure,” says Charles Lu, CEO of LeNano Diagnostics. Lu says current testing methods take longer — up to 24 hours for the most common central lab test, using complex machinery operated by lab professionals — or are less accurate, providing a “yes” or “no” response to acknowledge the presence of BNP as opposed to providing the actual concentration level. The test kit works similarly to the way a blood glucose meter works for diabetics. Patients simply prick their finger, rub the blood on a special strip, insert it into an electronic reader, and obtain a number within 20 minutes. An elevated reading means a higher concentration of BNP in the blood, indicating a patient is at risk of heart failure. The kit is simple to use and has accurate and quantitative results, enabling patients to monitor their own levels from home. It’s also Bluetooth-enabled, allowing results to be automatically communicated to remote care providers. The technology is also designed for use by clinicians in an emergency department or other healthcare setting where fast and accurate assessment is critical. Yael Zilberman-Simakov, an expert in nanomaterials and the researcher funded by Mitacs, leads the multi-disciplinary research and development team in Waterloo. She has spent the past year-and-a-half refining the product prototype and optimizing the biomedical micro sensors used to detect BNP in the blood. “What’s unique about this breakthrough technology is that it uses low-cost electrical sensors as opposed to high-cost optical sensors,” says Zilberman-Simakov. With pilot projects to begin shortly, Zilberman-Simakov says the projected commercial market size for the test kits is tremendous. Starting in Canada before extending into the U.S., Europe and Asia, she says the team is excited about the potential to offer a low-cost, easy-to-use finger prick test to help the estimated 600,000 Canadians currently living with chronic heart failure, with 50,000 more diagnosed each year. Statistics from the Canadian Heart Failure Network show that nearly one-quarter of these patients are likely to be readmitted to hospital within one year after diagnosis.

Worldwide NEWS

Self-eating Rocket Engine Opens up Cargo Room


“self-eating” rocket engine, which could place small satellites in orbit more easily and more affordably, is under development at universities in Scotland and Ukraine. In a paper published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, engineers from the University of Glasgow and Oles Honchar Dnipro National University in Ukraine discuss how they have built, fired, and for the first time throttled up and down, an “autophage” engine which could change how small satellites are sent into space. Today, most rockets use tanks to store their propellant as they climb, and the weight of the tanks is usually many times greater than the weight of the useful payload. This reduces the efficiency of the launch vehicle and also contributes to the problem of space debris. However, a launch vehicle powered by an autophage engine would consume its own structure during ascent so more cargo capacity could be freedup and less debris would enter orbit. The autophage engine consumes a propellant rod which has solid fuel on the outside and oxidiser on the inside. The solid fuel is a strong plastic, such as polyethylene, so the rod is effectively a pipe full of powdered oxidiser. By driving the rod into a hot engine, the fuel and oxidiser can be vaporised into gases that flow into the combustion chamber. This produces thrust, as well as the heat required to vaporise the next section of propellant. Simply by varying the speed at which the rod is driven into the engine, the researchers have shown that the engine can be throttled – a rare capability in a solid motor. Currently, the team have sustained rocket operations for 60 seconds at a time in their lab tests.

Scientists Discover Why Heart Function is Reduced at High Altitude

New research by Cardiff Metropolitan University, the University of British Columbia and Loma Linda School of Medicine explains why high altitude reduces the amount of blood the heart pumps around the body. It shows that reduced oxygen at over 3,000 metres leads to decreased volumes of blood in the body and increases blood pressure in the lungs. It found that both factors play a role in reducing the volume of blood the heart can pump. Researchers plan to expand the initial study sample of individuals of European descent, to include natives of the Andean mountains.

Six CE-Mark Tests for Meningitis and Antibiotic Resistance Launched

Staying ahead of changing clinical needs in a world of emerging pathogens, ever-increasing identification of new molecular diagnostic targets, and improved detection technology, BioGX B.V. is adding six new CE-Mark infectious disease tests, with an additional 10 planned for the second half of 2018. The six new CE-Mark Meningitis and Antibiotic Resistance tests on BD MAX are: Viral Meningitis HSV/VZV, Bacterial Meningitis NSH, Bacterial Meningitis ELGBS, Carbapenem Resistance KNO, Carbapenem/Colistin Resistance VGM, and Vancomycin Resistance.

Ecosystems Affected Differently by Loss of Biodiversity

“Over the last decade, Glasgow has become a centre of excellence for the UK space industry, particularly in small satellites known as “CubeSats”, which provide researchers with affordable access to space-based experiments. There’s also potential for the UK’s planned spaceport to be based in Scotland,” says Dr. Patrick Harkness, senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, who leads Glasgow’s contribution to the work. “While we’re still at an early stage of development, we have an effective engine testbed in the laboratory in Dnipro, and we are working with our colleagues there to improve it still further. The next step is to secure further funding to investigate how the engine could be incorporated into a launch vehicle.”

A 20-year study by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå provides the strongest evidence yet that loss of biodiversity affects ecosystems differently. Research conducted in Sweden’s boreal forests shows that the remaining species compensated for those that were lost, and that this compensation varied among ecosystems, being greatest when soil fertility and production were low. They also found that destabilizing effects of biodiversity loss on plant biomass were lowest in the least productive ecosystems.






Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Ian Hanington is Senior Editor, David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at www.


ur health, well-being, food security, energy and economic progress depend on healthy, diverse nature. Clean water and air are essential to human life and health. Nutrient-rich soils are necessary to grow food. Diversity makes the ecosystems on which human life depends resilient. But, as more than 550 experts from over 100 countries recently warned, “Biodiversity — the essential variety of life forms on Earth — continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being.” On March 22 in Medellín, Colombia, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ 129 member states approved the experts’ four extensively peer-reviewed regional reports. Researchers examined more than 10,000 studies over three years to assess the state of biodiversity and to determine the causes and solutions for declines in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Central Asia. IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said, “The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature — or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead. Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.” The reports conclude that “biodiversity and nature’s capacity to contribute to people are being degraded, reduced and lost due to a number of common pressures — habitat stress; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural

May/June 2018 LAB BUSINESS

resources; air, land and water pollution; increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species and climate change, among others.” According to the University College London’s Tim Newbold, lead researcher for a 2016 study the reports reference, “For 58.1% of the world’s land surface, which is home to 71.4% of the global population, the level of biodiversity loss is substantial enough to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies.” Biodiversity of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms is important. Each species plays a unique ecosystem role. Diverse nature offers numerous ecosystem services, including ensuring we have access to a variety of foods and medicines. It also creates resilience — a variety of species ensures that some will continue to function if others fail. In the Americas, species populations are on average 31 per cent lower than when European settlement began. With increasing climate change impacts, that’s expected to rise to at least 40 per cent by 2050. The report notes that Indigenous Peoples and local communities have slowed or reversed declines in some areas through “a diversity of polyculture and agroforestry systems,” but warns that Indigenous local knowledge and languages, and the cultures associated with them, are also threatened or dying. The economic consequences alone are staggering. Researchers estimate that land-based natural systems contribute services worth about $24.3 trillion a year to people in the Americas — equivalent to the region’s gross domestic product — and about $3.6 trillion in Canada. As one example of the costs of addressing the problems, the report shows the “annual cost of managing the impacts of invasive alien zebra mussels on infrastructure for power, water supply and transportation in the Great Lakes” is more than $500 million. Although many solutions lie in government policy, individuals can also help. Watson told National Geographic that eating less meat, wasting less food, using water more efficiently, reducing toxic chemical use and shifting from fossil fuels are all necessary. He also said Indigenous and local knowledge are invaluable to helping us learn how to live better with nature, and that cross-border collaboration is essential because nature doesn’t recognize human boundaries. Emma Archer, co-chair of the African assessment, said citizen engagement is also needed: “As citizens, we need to vote and lobby for political leaders and policies that support these choices.” LB

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Biotron crystallizing climate change STORY BY


Jana Manolakos

May/June 2018 LAB BUSINESS



Western University



limate change can feel too remote and too unreal, its urgency lost in everyday lives. But at Western University’s Biotron, it becomes tangible. In this unique, state-of-the-art facility, scientists are making important connections as they investigate the mechanisms of global environmental transformation. In Canada at this moment, a small group of researchers is probing life in the coastal estuaries of British Columbia. Others are analyzing soil temperatures in the tundra of the Northwest Territories and still more are measuring carbon dioxide levels in the boreal forests of Newfoundland. Seeking to understand the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change, their collective laboratory is the natural world – which in Canada is defined by 22 eco-zones spanning 9.9 million square kilometres. Such great distances make it hard for scientists to draw meaningful lines between studies on climate change, a challenge that is further compounded by the length of time, often decades, it can take to observe these effects. The cost of setting up controlled experiments in the outdoors can also add up – as much as several million dollars. Not so at the Biotron Experimental Climate Change Research Centre (Biotron), a hub of leading-edge research in London, ON. Nestled among academic buildings at Western University, this five-storey facility houses multiple controlled-environment laboratories and state-of-the-art analytical and microscopy units. Here, researchers can observe the complexities of climactic conditions under one roof, and offer tangible evidence of what’s happening on the planet, says the Biotron’s Scientific Director, Dr. Brian Branfireun, Canada Research Chair in Environment and Sustainability and an international expert in the field of watershed hydrology, biogeochemistry and the environmental cycling of mercury. “We can grow entire small forests under elevated temperatures and increased carbon dioxide and do so in a controlled experimental way to identify the primary effects of climate change on ecosystems. It enables researchers to conduct laboratory experiments on a scale previously unimaginable to study the impacts of climate change and extreme environments

Here, researchers can observe the complexities of climactic conditions under one roof, and offer tangible evidence of what’s happening on the planet


Lab PROFILE on water, soils, plants, microorganisms and insects.” The significance is not lost on Branfireun’s close colleague, Dr. Danielle Way, who is leading a team at the Biotron studying the interactions of carbon dioxide and rising temperatures on plant species, particularly poplar and tamarack trees found in boreal forests. “There are many experiments in the field looking at just carbon dioxide or just global warming, but to be able to observe the two together – which is a reflection of what is actually happening environmentally, is very difficult and expensive, costing multiple millions and taking decades to set up,” she says. It’s a sunny spring morning as Way sets out for a 10-minute ride to work at Western. Taking her bicycle upstairs to her second-floor office in the Biology department, she leans it against the wall adjacent to her desk, overflowing with student papers, lecture schedules, grant applications and plans for her own research. Once settled in, she decides to check on the students in her lab within the Biotron. She heads across a causeway that connects the department to the four-storey glass enclosed foyer of the facility, where a few students have sought refuge on sun-drenched benches in the airy and serene space. As the brainchild of Dr. Norman Hüner, who was the principal investigator of the Canada Foundation for Innovation proposal that resulted in funding for the Biotron and its first Scientific Director, the facility opened to both local and international researchers in 2008. Additional funding came from the Ontario Research Fund and through partnerships among

the universities of Western and Guelph, Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and private donors. Today it houses three major services: environmental chambers – for insects, plants and a variety of biomes or ecological communities; an accla imed state-of-the-art microscopy unit; and a leading-edge analytical laboratory. Here researchers are seeking answers to global warming management, plants as bioreactors for molecular farming, impacts of herbicides and pesticides on food chains, acclimation a nd sustainable plant productivity, insect pest and vector control, and reducing the environmental impact of metals. “At the core of the Biotron are dozens and dozens of spaces or chambers – from mini-fridge sized incubators for microbiology to large greenhouses on the roof where we can regulate temperatures and carbon dioxide and simulate any future climate that we can imagine,” says Branfireun. The Biotron boasts one of the largest standalone environmental chambers in the world, built by BioChambers Inc. Its size and distinctive construction allow it to simulate virtually any climate in the world. It has the unique ability to maintain different temperatures in an upper and lower zone,

We can grow entire small forests under elevated temperatures and increased carbon dioxide and do so in a controlled experimental way to identify the primary effects of climate change on ecosystems. –D r. Brian Branfireun, Scientific Director, Biotron


May/June 2018 LAB BUSINESS

Lab PROFILE While there is one network overall, there are different systems that operate independently and can be programmed remotely.

permitting the simulation of variables above and below ground conditions such as those found in permafrost in Canada’s north. These unique features have enabled research that cannot be done anywhere else in Canada. On the first floor, Way enters her dry lab where a student is measuring a tamarack specimen harvested earlier that day from the rooftop greenhouses, and is uploading data onto computers. Way passes through and enters the adjacent wet lab, putting on a pair of safety goggles to protect against splashes. In addition to the typical equipment that one would expect, this particular one includes special grinders that enable chemical assays for such things as plant carbohydrate content and leaf pigmentation, and a Thermotron temperature stress chamber used to test heat tolerance. Branfireun believes that while there are many important laboratories studying the effects of environmental change across Canada, none offer the unique diversity of spaces seen at the Biotron. “For example, we have an insect module that is CFIA certified,” says Branfireun. “It is Level One certified so people can work with pest insects and explore environment-plant-insect interactions in a sophisticated, cost-efficient space.” For the most part, researchers at the Biotron are freed from some of the management issues they might contend with working in their own labs. For example, those that are studying insects don’t need to worry about maintaining the facilities to prepare diets for animals because the space offers a large dietary prep area for users, basically a kitchen, for up to a dozen researchers to use. The space includes an autoclave, cookers and fridges, sinks and counter spaces that allow researchers to prepare a mix of insect diets, from meal to egg-based menus. As a research platform, the Biotron enables scientists from different disciplines to share their studies and skills and collaborate on climate change issues, says Branfireun. Way has been talking to Dr. Jeremy McNeil, a former Scientific Director of the Biotron and acclaimed insect expert at Western, whose laboratory is just down the hall. They’ve been discussing the work of one of Way’s students who is studying the impact of low-CO2 concentrations on plants, simulating the environment as it existed 15,000



years ago and how that affects plants’ abilities to defend against herbivores. There may be an opportunity down the road to link this work to McNeil’s insect research to see how well herbivores perform when fed plants grown under prehistoric glacial conditions. “We are interested in how climate change affects plant communities especially in wetlands – and how the change in moisture in plants affects invertebrates, microbiological processes and subsequently water chemistry. You can draw lines connecting all those parts of an ecosystem which is why the experimental setting here is so valuable,” says Branfireun. Several people at the Biotron are working with the Canadian Forest Service (Natural Resources Canada) looking at the cold tolerance of pest insects related to forests and the effects of climate change on carbon in Canadian ecosystems. “It’s a laboratory that doesn’t have one team working on the same problem, but rather a diverse group of people working on a wide range of different problems with varying degrees of overlapping space.” The Biotron is also a “proof of concept space” suggests Branfireun, enabling foundational studies to occur that lend greater certainty for more expensive studies down the road. In addition to several research partnerships in Canada with different levels of government and with First Nations, academic staff like Branfireun and Way collaborate internationally: working on the Spruce-Peatland Response Under Climate and Environmental Change Experiment (SPRUCE) in Minnesota; with several Swedish universities looking at boreal trees; and in Australia, the United Kingdom, and, Chile where a study is exploring the impact of increased CO2 on Antarctica’s only two known plant species, besides moss. Way heads up to the enormous rooftop greenhouses. In their ante-chamber, she puts on a fresh lab coat and paper booties, to prevent contaminants from entering the strictly controlled space. There are six glass houses offering Level 1 containment, with directional inward flowing non-recycled air, that prevents outside airborne contaminants from spoiling controlled growth experiments. Constructed with glass walls, the spaces allow natural sunlight to flood in, but are also equipped with an automatic shading system that can simulate different times of day and season. An array of micro-sensors and computer infrastructure enable strict analysis and control over such factors as CO2 . Like those in the greenhouses, the majority of the 70 environmental chambers at the Biotron are embedded with computers that control environmental conditions through a variety of system programs, similar to those found in a smart home, but much more advanced. While there is one network overall, there are different systems that operate independently and can be programmed remotely. “For example,” says Branfireun, “The rooftop greenhouse systems are independent of the walk-in growth chambers in the insect unit. If something goes wrong with any of the chambers that are in


May/June 2018 LAB BUSINESS


The Biotron, a five-storey facility, houses multiple controlled-environment laboratories and state-of-the-art analytical and microscopy units.

operation, we know immediately and can respond to an equipment failure very quickly even if nobody is on-site.” The Biotron houses an impressive microscopy suite with confocal, digital light and fluorescence, transmission and scanning electron microscopy technology. “The unit also has an expert imaging and electron microscopy specialists to help researchers manipulate images for optimal results.” In the analytical unit, there are state-of-the-art mercury analyzers, manufactured by Tekran Instruments Inc., that focus on environmental sample analysis primarily on trace metal. Other equipment offers inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (Agilent ICP-MS), augmented with high-performance chromatography and the capacity to study mercury isotopes. The analysis unit is both ISO and CALA accredited. “It produces reliable data for other researchers, universities, governments and private sector companies,” says Branfireun. There aren’t a lot of ISO accredited facilities out there doing analysis for ultra trace mercury or arsenic, so the revenue that comes in from this type of work is helpful in supporting the Biotron’s student training program.

Dr. Brian Branfireun, Scientific Director, Biotron “We train dozens of students, undergraduates and graduates, co-op students and interns every year,” he says. “Graduate students have the opportunity to operate within the standards set by the ISO and cannot run anything until they receive ISO approval – which gives them the chance to learn how to generate the best data, among other research skills.” Even after six years at the facility,

Way still gets excited in the glass houses, but ultimately it’s the people and the community, “the excellent group of researchers coming together to work and collaborate,” she says, which give her some of the greatest satisfaction. Before heading back to her department to spend the afternoon writing papers, Way meets with a few students to discuss the set-up for an upcoming experiment. They have determined the environmental conditions needed for the study and will provide the details to the Biotron’s support staff, who will adjust the equipment for the ideal conditions within which to run the study. “The future now for us lies in reinventing the Biotron from a core research platform into a bigger enterprise,” says Branfireun. “It’s one thing to have the space as we do now for experiments. But we also need to operate in an intellectual space that supports the research mission.” That’s the next step, he says: to form an official centre of research excellence, an intellectual home for the Biotron, with increased exposure to attract graduate students, post doctoral fellows and researchers from other parts of the world. LB


Application NOTE

Simplifying Moisture Measurement to Improve Food Quality Instantaneous, “point-and-measure� handheld analyzers that can be operated by virtually any technician deliver lab-quality moisture readings in seconds



Del Williams

March/April 2018 LAB BUSINESS

Application NOTE


n the food processing industry, controlling the moisture content in dry good ingredients can impact product quality, formulation, processing, shelf life and even shipping costs. Therefore, accurate measurement of moisture content is essential throughout the process and even with the final product. Until recently, however, conducting frequent moisture content tests in the field has been difficult. In many cases, the primary barrier has been the expertise and time required to conduct such tests. Often, sophisticated moisture measurement devices must be operated by trained personnel that can properly calibrate the equipment. Many also require meticulous sample preparation. Fortunately, handheld devices are now available that allow even less-

skilled personnel to take lab-quality moisture measurements. These “pointand-measure” options allow readings to be quickly taken at any stage of the process including at the supplier, in receiving areas, in-process (prior and post-mixing) and on the finished product. By doing so, food processers can ensure a more consistent, high-quality product ultimately reaches the consumer.


Although the reasons for measuring the moisture content of dry good food ingredients can vary, the primary motivation is to improve product quality and the bottom line. In terms of quality, incorrect mois-

NIR moisture meters allow very accurate instant measurement of solids, pastes, and liquids without contact or sample preparation. –J ohn Bogart, Managing Director,

Kett US


Application NOTE ture content in dry ingredients can lead to soggy products as well as alter its taste, texture, and appearance. Shelf life is also directly affected by moisture content. If there is too much moisture, mold can develop or the product can spoil in the package. Too little moisture and the product can become stale much faster. Establishing the moisture level of dry ingredients that must be mixed together is also very important, as it can affect how the ingredients blend together, dissolve, or flow through the process. Finally, since food products are sold by weight, packaging and shipping the product at optimum moisture percentages can also help optimize the purchase price and freight cost.


Portable NIR equipment is designed for ease of use, with the user simply pointing the instrument at the food ingredient.


March/April 2018 LAB BUSINESS

Although traditional laboratory and onlinebased moisture measurement techniques are useful in the right settings, they have lacked the simplicity and flexibility required for frequent spot checks. One common test is Loss on Drying, which measures the total material weight change after drying. However, such tests typically require a sample to be prepared and brought back to the lab. The test takes at least 15 minutes to several hours to perform, which is too slow when more immediate measurements are required. It also requires the sample to be altered or destroyed. As a result, secondary test methods have typically been used to deliver faster results. This type of test uses an indirect method and a single conversion to achieve accurate results. Secondary measurement techniques are routinely accepted as equal to the gold standard method. Examples are speedometers, common infrared and liquid thermometers and most pressure gauges. If there is a disadvantage, it is that the instrument must first be calibrated to ensure accurate results. In some cases, calibration could only be performed by trained staff familiar with the equipment. In response, industry innovators have developed a simplified approach that allows even less-trained personnel to take portable, instant moisture readings of dry good food ingredients as needed. The approach involves moisture meters that utilize Near-Infrared (NIR) light, a highly accurate, non-contact secondary measurement method that can deliver imme-

Application NOTE diate laboratory quality moisture readings. “NIR moisture meters allow very accurate instant measurement of solids, pastes, and liquids without contact or sample preparation, so there is no contamination in handheld and online models,” says John Bogart, Managing Director of Kett US, a manufacturer of a full range of moisture and organic composition analyzers. “Once the meter has been calibrated against the lab or production standard, the calibration is stored in the device so no calibration is required in the field. Measurements are fully traceable to the original measurement method.” In addition, because the process is non-destructive, samples remain unaltered so they can be used for additional tests or put back into the product stream. “NIR moisture meters follow the principle that water absorbs certain wavelengths of light,” says Bogart. “The meter reflects light off the sample, measures how much light has been absorbed, and the result is automatically converted into a moisture content reading.” Unlike complex laboratory equipment, portable NIR equipment is designed for ease of use, with the user simply pointing the instrument at the

food ingredient. The moisture content is instantly shown on a digital display, with results accurate to .01% in a 0-100% measurement range. Because no direct contact or sample alteration is required, unusual textures and particle size variation are not an issue. This can be important when used with a range of food ingredients in different settings. The unit is operated via user-friendly menu commands. The unit, which is the size of a camcorder, is designed for frequent spot checks wherever necessary, on both stationary and moving (process line) products. Moisture measurement data may be stored in the instrument, downloaded continuously, or manually recorded. “The goal is for any staff member to be able to successfully use the moisture meter wherever it is needed, with minimal required training,” says Bogart. “This allows food processors to have the certainty that what they are producing is of the highest quality. “The key is to cost-effectively be able to conduct as much testing as required, with full confidence in the results, each and every time.” LB Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.

The goal is for any staff member to be able to successfully use the moisture meter wherever it is needed, with minimal required training. This allows food processors to have the certainty that what they are producing is of the highest quality. –J ohn Bogart, Managing Director,

Kett US



MilliporeSigma has recently launched its new CellStream benchtop flow cytometry system, a customizable flow cytometer that uses a camera for detection. The CellStream system’s Amnis time-delay integration and camera technology rapidly captures low-resolution cell images and converts them to high-throughput intensity data with enhanced fluorescence sensitivity. The new system can be used in a wide variety of research areas, including exosome research, where it can identify small populations unable to be seen on other cytometers. The CellStream flow cytometry system offers multiple innovative features, including: fully customizable seven-laser capacity, providing the capability to obtain up to 22 detection channels; patent-protected TDI sensor and camera technology, enabling high fluorescence sensitivity; and standard 96-well plate auto-sampler, available on all instruments to capture high-throughput intensity data.


Vision Research, a manufacturer of digital high-speed imaging systems, has introduced the Phantom v1840 – the latest addition to the Phantom ultrahigh-speed camera family. The v1840 camera offers the lowest noise floor of any Phantom camera and has a high 64dB dynamic range to provide unprecedented image quality at full 4 megapixel 2,048 x 1,952 resolution. To provide users in research applications with the ultimate flexibility, the v1840 comes equipped with five operating modes. These include standard mode; high-speed (HS) mode, with 34 per cent more throughput; binning in both standard and HS mode for higher sensitivity and frame rates; and now Bright Field (BF) mode for exceptionally bright, or shot-noise limited, backgrounds. The Phantom v1840 integrates 72, 144 or 288 GB of memory that can be further segmented into 63 partitions for multiple, shorter cines. The camera also is compatible with Phantom CineMag IV 1 or 2 TB nonvolatile memory, which can save 288 GB of data in under five minutes.


May/June 2018 LAB BUSINESS



Princeton Instruments, manufacturer of low-light imaging and spectroscopic instruments, announced recently the immediate availability of several new, high-speed, ultra-low-noise cameras engineered for vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) and soft x-ray direct-detection applications. The SOPHIA-XO camera platform is specially designed for scientific applications such as VUV/ EUV/XUV imaging, x-ray diffraction, x-ray microscopy, x-ray holography, x-ray spectroscopy, and x-ray plasma. New SOPHIA-XO cameras utilize back-illuminated CCDs for direct detection of the widest range of VUV and x-rays (~5 eV to 30 keV). These new “XO” camera models, which are extensions of Princeton Instruments’ popular SOPHIA product line, feature 2048 x 2048 and 4096 x 4096 formats with 100% fill factor, up to 150,000 efull well, >95% peak QE, and read noise as low as 3.5 e- rms. A 4-port, 16 MHz readout architecture allows the new cameras to deliver more than 3 full frames per second — 7x to 10x faster than previous 2-port cameras.

EKF Diagnostics, a global in vitro diagnostics company, announced USFDA clearance and CLIA waiver for the company’s handheld, reagentfree hemoglobin analyzer, the DiaSpect Tm. The device is cleared for use in point of care (POC) and Certificate of Waiver settings. The DiaSpect Tm provides users with accurate hemoglobin measurements within two seconds of its whole blood-filled cuvette being inserted for analysis. This ensures immediate and robust hemoglobin results for patient health checks and anemia screening at the point of care. Based on its FDA categorization, the DiaSpect Tm can be used in a variety of settings, as well as by a wide range of health care personnel. It is highly userfriendly and requires minimal training. It can deliver laboratory quality results to patients in the clinic within seconds.


CAS DataLoggers has released a new wireless device that monitors temperature from thermocouple sensors: the WF-TC WiFi Thermocouple Data Logger from Accsense VersaLog. This eight-channel, battery-powered, WiFi-enabled thermocouple data logger is a compact solution with a wide array of features including: Thermocouple Types: E, N, J, K, T; a 16-bit analog to digital (ADC) converter; both USB and WiFi interfaces. Accsense VersaLog data loggers offer flexibility for data collection in almost any setting. The new WF-TC current logger records eight external current sources and saves data onto its 8MB memory. The accurate 16-bit ADC (analog-to-digital converter) makes it well-suited to science and laboratory applications. For unattended data collection, its aluminum enclosure ensures excellent performance even in harsh industrial environments.


Thermo Fisher Scientific recently released its Gibco ExpiSf System, a chemically defined insect protein expression system. The ExpiSf system brings together the company’s Gibco media technology, Lipofectamine transfection technology and molecular biology expertise to deliver three times more protein and consistent results. Unlike other systems, Thermo Fisher says, ExpiSf has been optimized for the generation of high-quality baculovirus using a suspension-based transfection protocol that delivers protein in half the time compared to traditional insect platforms. The new ExpiSf Expression System offers a convenient virus generation and protein expression cell line in only two steps that the company predicts will save about 30 per cent in the time taken for protein expression and make cell maintenance simpler.


Physik Instrumente (PI) released a new comprehensive catalogue of linear and rotary positioning systems engineered and manufactured for industrial precision automation. The products covered in the catalogue address numerous industries such as semiconductor production/inspection and automated optical inspection (AOI). PI’s in-house designed and manufactured PIMag linear motor stages and PIglide air bearing technologies and high performance EtherCat-based industrial precision motion controllers are some of the technologies featured in the catalogue. All technologies can be adapted specifically to an application. Examples include PIMag high speed voice coil drives for integration into an OEM motion systems, as well as complex multi-axis positioning setups, and fully integrated, automation sub-systems. Additional precision motion products not covered in this catalog are miniature stages, piezo motors and mechanisms, piezo-flexure nanopositioning devices, silicon photonics automation systems, ultra-fast laser beam steering systems and sub-nanometer precise position sensors.


The new VACUUBRAND DVR2pro capacitive vacuum gauge from BrandTech measures absolute pressures in the rough vacuum range from atmosphere to 1mbar/Torr/ hPa. An updated version of the industry standard DVR2, it has improved software to reduce battery consumption. It provides easy access to the standard 9V alkaline battery through a battery door while digital and analog displays allow for precise measurement and easy trend indication. The DVR2pro features adjustable measurement time intervals to help stabilize readings in fluctuating applications. It can be easily fit to KF16 small flanges, standard vacuum tubing from 6-10mm ID (1/4” – 3/8”) or 10/8 PTFE tubing.


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Canadian Pharmaceutical Distribution Network

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Caledon Labs

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Canadian Food Business

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Moments in TIME

n a M r e h t a e W I

n the early 1960s, André J. Robert developed the first successful spectral method for meteorological equations, replacing the previously common grid point method. Robert’s method, first documented in 1967, allowed the time step in atmospheric models to be increased by a factor of six, without reducing the accuracy of the forecasts. He later refined his method to include a time filter that was instrumental in the improvement of climate models, as well as allowing for efficiency and precision with reduced computation. Robert’s adaption of primitive meteorological equations for computational use led to the first computer simulation of the atmosphere’s general circulation. His methods were adopted by several of the world’s largest weather centres and are still in use. LB

References • “An Evaluation Of The Behaviour Of Planetary Waves In An Atmospheric Model Raised On Spherical Harmonics” • • “Numerical Methods In Atmospheric And Oceanic Modelling: The André J. Robert Memorial Volume”


May/June 2018 LAB BUSINESS

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EXPOSE YOUR BRAND to industry decision-makers in Canada’s food and beverage science industry!

Feast your eyes on the flavours of the September/October issue: • Government Funding for Canadian Food Processors

• Breakthroughs in DNA Sequencing to Promote Food Safety • How Blockchain is Revolutionizing the Canadian Food Industry • New Ways Food and Beverage Companies are Extending Their Reach Through Social Media, Ambassador Programs and Partnerships

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