Imaging team embraces new coating system

A biomedical imaging department is reaping the benefits of a new coating system designed for applications in electron microscopy

A leading player in electron microscopy coating and cryogenic preparation products, Quorum Technologies, reports on the use of its Q150T ES combined sputter coating and carbon coating system selected as a general-purpose workhorse facility for the Biomedical Imaging Unit (BIU) at the UK’s Southampton University.

The BIU is a core facility that provides a diagnostic and research service in high quality/high-resolution microscopy. It is a joint facility run for the benefit of, and jointly funded by, the University of Southampton and Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, and has eight full time staff. The microscopes in the BMI are used extensively for research, teaching and diagnostic work by staff and students across the Trust and university, with some 100-150 users per year from most science faculties including Medicine, Physics, National Oceanographic Centre, Engineering and Biological Sciences. This nationally important unit is extremely well equipped with two new microscopes to enable it to do 3D microscopy in addition to the existing transmission and scanning electron microscopes, confocal and time lapse light microscopes, image analysis and video microscopes.

The Quorum Q150T ES coater was purchased to replace a very old (1960s vintage) Edwards coating unit. It is being used as a general-purpose workstation for carbon coating, sputter coating for high resolution SEM, glow discharging grids, cleaning apertures, etc.

Discussing the purchase, Anton Page, head of the BIU, says, “We looked at various alternative systems but these did not fit our needs or match our price constraints. The new coater is ideal. It is a combined system, providing both sputtering and carbon coating. The deposition heads can be swapped in seconds and the intelligent system logic automatically recognises which head is in place and displays the appropriate operating settings.

“Furthermore, for us, it is very fast! Our old coating unit took half a day (really!) to pump down before we could use it. The Q150T ES is a turbo pump system and can do the same job in 10 to15 minutess and get a better result. Newer coating units are obviously much quicker than our old one but this is also more versatile. It it has interchangeable head inserts - one for carbon coating and one for sputter coating - which prevents cross-contamination of specimens, making cleaning easier too. It is simple to use, so we can teach our users how to coat their specimens instead of doing it for them.”

The Quorum Q150T ES is one of a family of coaters designed for applications across the spectrum of electron microscopy. Thousands of Q150 and Q300 coaters are used in EM laboratories around the world - and increasingly for many thin-film coating applications. 

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