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KAREN funding to improve accessibility

KAREN funding to improve accessibility to electron microscopes

23 July, 2008

AgResearch has been awarded more than $180,000 to use the ultra-high-speed KAREN telecommunications network to enable scientists around the country to use its advanced electron microscopes remotely.

The funding was awarded by the Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand (REANZ) through its KAREN Capability Build Project Fund. The project is a collaboration between AgResearch, Lincoln Ventures Limited and the University of Otago.

KAREN is a next generation telecommunications link for New Zealand educators, researchers and innovators. It provides high capacity, ultra high-speed connectivity between New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, research organisations and the rest of the world.

Located at AgResearch’s Lincoln campus, AgResearch’s Transmission Electron Microscopes are among the country’s most powerful and very much in demand by researchers around New Zealand, says Project Leader Duane Harland.

“The transmission-electron microscopes at AgResearch’s Lincoln campus, including the 300 kV Fei Tecnai G2, are among the most advanced in the country.

“This instrument is used for electron tomography (three-dimensional reconstruction of sub-micron structures) — a technique that has wide application within biological, medical and material sciences,” he says.

Electron tomography requires specialist operator knowledge and in practice this means that users have had to travel to Lincoln and sit with an AgResearch scientist with the appropriate skills and knowledge.

“By using the KAREN network, researchers can save on travelling costs and time. We believe that making the microscopes more accessible will enable scientists who otherwise couldn’t travel to Lincoln, to use the facility.”

Through a mixture of video-conferencing and tele-instrumentation, the project team will enable scientists to operate the Transmission Electron Microscopes at AgResearch from any location that is part of the KAREN network.

“This sort of remote operation would not be possible without using the high speeds of data transfer that the KAREN network provides. The researcher in the remote location will be looking at high-resolution, dense images that require huge bandwidth to transmit. KAREN is the only technology available in New Zealand that can provide the very high data transmission speeds that are required to simultaneously handle high definition video and data streams.


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