Light BYTES – March 2021: MAGMA Light Engine®: Solid State Illumination for Solar Test Platforms

MAGMA Light Engine®: Solid State Illumination for Solar Test Platforms

Artificial light sources are essential for performance validation in photovoltaic device manufacturing and for characterization of properties such as photoconductivity and quantum efficiency in the development of new photovoltaic materials. Traditionally, characterization of photovoltaic devices has employed xenon arc or halogen lamps to approximate the solar spectrum. However, their spectral output is not readily amenable to controlled adjustment, and long duration (weeks to months) tests are limited by their relatively short operating lifetimes. Lumencor’s MAGMA Light Engine employs modern solid state illumination technology to overcome these limitations. Within a compact 15 cm x 35 cm footprint, the MAGMA Light Engine incorporates 21 individually addressable LED light sources, ranging from 365 nm to 1050 nm, under the control of an onboard microprocessor. The LED outputs are merged into a common optical train directed to the light output port on the front panel. Adjustment of the relative output intensities of the 21 elements of the LED array enables synthesis of user-specified spectral distributions, such as the AM1.5G solar spectrum.

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Light BYTES – February 2021: Nature Method 2020 Method for the Year Features Lumencor’s CELESTA

Method of the Year: MERFISH Imaging using the CELESTA Light Engine®

Nature Methods journal recently selected spatially resolved transcriptomics as Method of the Year for 2020.  Spatially resolved transcriptomics is a collective term for a set of techniques directed towards a single goal – molecular level characterization of single cells within the spatial context of the tissues that they inhabit. This maintenance of spatial context is crucial for understanding key aspects of cell biology, developmental biology, neurobiology and tumor biology.  MERFISH (multiplex error robust fluorescence in situ hybridization) is one of the most prominent spatially resolved transcriptomics techniques.  MERFISH is an imaging technique that profiles cell populations based on identification of thousands of RNA transcripts per cell.  The CELESTA Light Engine is an ideal and widely-adopted illumination source for this application.  In a recent paper published in Cell [1], Xiaowei Zhuang and co-workers at Harvard University used MERFISH and a CELESTA Light Engine to simultaneously image more than 1000 genomic loci with nascent RNA transcripts of more than 1000 genes residing in these loci and landmark nuclear structures, including nuclear speckles and nucleoli. This approach allows exploration of the relationship between chromatin organization, transcriptional activity, and nuclear structures in single cells.  The paper also provides detailed descriptions of the procedures for performing the multiple cycles of probe hybridization and imaging required for multiplexed detection of thousands of DNA and RNA sequences.

MERFISH (multiplex error robust fluorescence in situ hybridization) is one of the most prominent spatially resolved transcriptomics techniques for which Lumencor’s CELESTA Light Engine is playing a critical role.


[1] JH Su, P Zheng, X Zhuang et al. Cell (2020) 182:1641–1659

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Light BYTES – December 2020: Introducing the newly updated family of SOLA light engines®

Updated SOLA light engines for 2021 and Beyond

You asked and we delivered! Lumencor is proud to introduce the newly updated family of SOLA light engines that will continue to set the standards for performance and reliability in white light illumination. This product line now includes 4 standard models that are differentiated by the number of sources and spectral output: SOLA, SOLA FISH, SOLA U-nIR and SOLA V-nIR light engines. The SOLA light engine provides white light output for excitation of DAPI, GFP/FITC, YFP, Cy3, mCherry, Cy5 and spectrally similar fluorophores. In the SOLA FISH light engine, output in the 475–600 nm region is red-shifted to provide optimal excitation for SpectrumGreenTM, SpectrumRedTM and other fluorophores commonly used for fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis in cytogenetic testing laboratories. The SOLA V-nIR and U-nIR light engines offer the broadest spectral coverage, including near infrared (nIR) output for excitation of fluorophores such as Cy7 and ICG, and for other applications that benefit from the enhanced tissue penetration of nIR light.

All SOLA light engine models now include:

  • USB and electronic shutter control connections
  • Linearized intensity control
  • Active output stabilization
  • Long operational lifetimes
  • 24-month warranty

The 3 mm liquid light guide required for delivering the SOLA light engine output to microscopes or other bioanalytical instruments is now automatically included with all purchases. To request a sales quotation for any (or all) of the four new SOLA light engine models, please submit our online quote request form today!

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Light BYTES – November 2020: Intensity Control Linearity in Lumencor’s New Generation of Light Engines

Lumencor’s new Generation of Light Engines: Intensity Control linearity

AURA, RETRA, SPECTRA, CELESTA and ZIVA light engines, as well as the newly refreshed SOLA light engine for 2021, incorporate on-board microprocessors, providing impressive advances in control and monitoring capabilities. One such advancement is linear intensity control. Each of these illuminators generate optical power that has a precisely linear relationship to intensity settings across all colors, providing more quantitive and predictable responses for users. In the case of white light, constant color temperature is achievable regardless of output power. Just another reason customers who care about performance come to Lumencor for solid state illumination.

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Light BYTES – September 2020 : George McNamara wins Competition with SPECTRA Light Engine®

SPECTRA Light Engine® Takes the Win Highlighting smFISH

In celebration of Earth Day Lumencor launched its annual Light Microscopy Imaging Competition to highlight Lumencor’s commitment to manufacturing bright, clean, and mercury-free light engines. The tallies are in and we are happy to announce the winners. As always, we are impressed with the breadth and skill it took to capture each of the images submitted in this years competition. For more information on how Lumencor light engines can help you in your research, please contact us.


1st Place – George McNamara and Lauren Blake
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
Light Engine: SPECTRA light engine®

5-plex mouse embryonic fibroblasts expressing MS2-tagged beta-actin mRNA. Red Halo-JF549-NLS-MCP, Green Atto594 POLR2A mRNA FISH, Blue DAPI, Cyan Cy5 beta- actin-MS2 mRNA FISH, Magenta Alexa Fluor 488-anti-DDX6 immunofluorescence. Microscope details at current-equipment/fishscope. Specimen preparation by Lauren Blake, Prof. Bin Wu’s lab (JHU Biophysics). Imaging by George McNamara, Ross Fluorescence Imaging Center.



2nd Place – Ariel Waldman
Independent Researcher, Antartica
Light Engine: SOLA SM light engine®

A nostoc discovered in Antarctica autofluorescing under TRITC excitation. This nostoc was found inside a microbial mat in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. A nostoc is a genus of cyanobacteria with beaded filaments intricately woven inside a gelatinous pouch. This image highlights the structure of the beaded filaments and their scaffolding within the gelatinous pouch.





3rd Place – Tejeshwar Rao
University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL
Light Engine: SOLA SE light engine®


Cos-7 cells spread on a tension gauge tether (TGT) surface and imaged on a Nikon Ti2 eclipse microscope using a Lumencor light engine and a turret wheel with different excitation and emission filter cubes – The RICM image (panel 1) was taken by removing the emission filter from the path. Cell tension indicated by TGT probe opening (panel 2) and paxillin staining (panel 3).

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Light BYTES – August 2020: USB Control Latency and How to Avoid It

USB Control Latency and How to Avoid It


Control latency limits the response time of all USB-connected microscope accessories, including cameras, stage controllers, filter wheels, and Lumencor light engines. Latency originates from the fact that the supervising PC operating system (usually Microsoft Windows) must allocate time to many competing tasks. As shown in the adjacent data plots, the impact on the user is that the duration of light output on the specimen is longer, and sometimes much longer, than the exposure time set in the acquisition software.


Duration of light output produced by a CELESTA light engine®, and detected by an external analog photodiode, in response to various exposure times set for a Hamamatsu ORCAFlash 4.0 camera controlled by MicroManager (v1.4.23) image acquisition software. Note that the discrepancies between set exposure time and light output duration are not specific (except in minor details) to any particular image acquisition software or light engine or camera model. Panel A shows data for light engine control via LEGACY mode USB communication. Panel B shows the same nominal exposure sequence controlled via STANDARD mode USB communication.


Two scenarios are shown, one using LEGACY mode USB communication (as implemented on the SPECTRA X and SOLA SE light engines), and the other using STANDARD mode communication (as implemented on the AURA III, SPECTRA III and CELESTA light engines). Because the USB data transmission rate in STANDARD mode is faster than that of LEGACY mode (115,200 vs 9,600 baud), it provides a significant reduction of latency for exposure times on the order of 100 ms (and above).  However at short exposure times (5–10 ms), the impact of the faster communication speed in STANDARD mode diminishes, as the response is dominated by the software processing speed.

To obtain light output durations less than about 50 ms, timing must be derived from a hardware controller instead of the PC operating system. The hardware controller supplies TTL timing signals to the light engine via a breakout cable (Table 1). Examples of millisecond-duration light pulses generated in this way can be found in the Performance section of our website. At the present time, the capacity to acquire time-lapse sequences of short duration exposures is limited by the camera (modern sCMOS cameras typically have a maximum frame rate of around 100/second), rather than by the light source.


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