Beauty of science revealed by EPSRC photo contest winners

By Harry Pettit For Mailonline

Published: 12:21 EST, 14 February 2018 | Updated: 12:22 EST, 14 February 2018

© Dr Rosalind Aughwane, University College London

This image shows 'placenta Pop-Art' and was created by University College London researcher Dr Rosalind Aughwane. Placentas are diverse in shape and appearance, and these coloured high-resolution photos highlight the organs' automatically segmented chorionic vascular trees. The research investigates how these structures relate to successful placental function

  • Winners of the 2018 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council science photography contest have been announced
  • This year's top snap is an image of a single atom of the metal strontium suspended in electric fields
  • The image beat more than 100 entries from scientists based in Britain to claim first place overall
  • Other entries include an extreme close-up of a butterfly’s wing and a robotic hand taking a selfie
© Mr Alastair March, University of Bath

Researchers think soil has potential as a low-carbon construction material of the future. To explore this, experts are experimenting with different clays in an attempt to turn them into water-resistant, strong and durable materials. Pictured are clay ribbons refined from Sudanese soil using sedimentation. They were developed by researchers at the University of Bath

An image of a single atom of the metal strontium suspended in electric fields has won a prestigious science photography prize.

David Nadlinger’s photo, Single Atom In An Ion Tap, was captured through the window of a vacuum chamber in an Oxford University laboratory, using an ordinary digital camera on a long exposure shot.

Two metal electrodes, two millimetres apart, held the strontium almost motionless as it was illuminated with a blue-violet-coloured laser.

The image beat more than 100 entries to claim first place overall in the 2018 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) science photography competition.

Mr Nadlinger said: 'The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the minuscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality.

'A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.'

Other photos which impressed the judges included an extreme close-up of a butterfly’s wing captured by Bernice Akpinar from Imperial College London with an atomic force microscope, scooping first place in the weird and wonderful category.

There was also a two-part entry from Luke Cramphorn of the University of Bristol Robotics Laboratory, featuring a robotic hand and arm taking a selfie with a smartphone attached to a selfie stick, along with the photograph itself.

Professor Dame Ann Dowling, the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and one of the judges, said: 'Not only do we have really strong, attractive photographs, the stories behind them about the research and why it is being done are inspiring.'

© Mr David Nadlinger, University of Oxford

This image, the competition's overall winner, shows a single atom of the metal strontium. The atom (purple glow in centre) was cooled by a laser in a vacuum chamber. It is held nearly motionless by electric fields fired from the metal electrodes surrounding it. Laser-cooled atomic ions are used by researchers to explore the properties of quantum physics. They are used to construct very accurate clocks or, as in this University of Oxford research, as building blocks for future quantum computers

© Mr Richard Coyne, University of Edinburgh

This image shows a volunteer wearing an EEG headset in Edinburgh, which is recording his brain activity. Researchers used EEG to measure the neural responses of 95 people aged over 65 to different outdoor urban environments, from busy roads to a quiet park. They found that older people walking between different environments show changes in their emotional response to each place. Green spaces seem to be restorative, offering a respite from the tiring demands of busy urban places

© Miss Bernice Akpinar, Imperial College London

The seemingly delicate wings of a butterfly are covered in tiny structures measuring a millionth of a metre, which trap the sun’s rays, and give rise to an array of dazzling colours. This extreme-closeup of the structure reveals them at the nanometre scale. It was captured using atomic force microscopy: a technique that scans a sharp probe across a surface, feeling for changes in height. Visible are ridges 1 μm (micron) in height, connected by a series of cross-ribs which trap light

© Mrs Lucy Bryden, Heriot Watt University

This photo shows a British farmer holding the fruit from two Lady’s Finger (Okra) crops grown near Edinburgh. The fruit were grown for the same length of time with the larger crops on the left coming from automated irrigated crop and the fruit on the right coming from the manually irrigated crop. The smart automated system combines a highly localised weather forecast with local know-how on irrigation needs and soil conditions, to produce a ‘right time, right volume’ approach to micro-irrigation

© Mr Li Shen, Imperial College London

The fluid patterns on top of a soap bubble in a kitchen sink are shown in this image. The two sides of the picture indicate two different physical phenomena studied in the research into how foams form and behave in lubricants and products like drinks. The right-hand side shows the traditional behaviour of gravitational fluid drainage flow where the colours indicate bubble thickness. The left-hand side with the holes demonstrates a type of quasi-elastic instability which occurs at microscopic scales

© Mr Tayo Sanders, University of Oxford

Cancerous tumours are difficult to treat because they have very few blood vessels, making it hard to deliver drugs deep into the tissue. This image shows a biodegradable 'microbowl' that could help doctors get around this hurdle. Developed at the University of Oxford, the bowl-shaped particles trap gas in their cavities. Experts use ultrasound to vibrate the trapped gas, causing the surrounding fluid to rapidly shift into the tumour, carrying the drug along with it

© Mr Sam Catchpole-Smith, University of Nottingham

Pictured is a selection of lattice structures created via selective laser melting, a type of or 3D printing. These aluminium structures have exceptional strength and stiffness, allowing engineers to significantly reduce the weight of components. Weight is a critical factor in the aerospace and automotive industry and it directly correlates to the fuel efficiency and environmental impact of travel

© Mr Luke Cramphorn, University of Bristol

A selfie taken by a robotic hand is pictured in this image. This simple photograph demonstrates one of many objects that the 'manipulator' is capable of holding. The research undertaken by the Tactile Robotics group at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is focused on perception of surfaces using a tactile sensor, known as the 'TacTip'

© Mr Luke Cramphorn, University of Bristol

This second image of the robotic-hand selfie is taken further away from the manipulator so that the robot arm, selfie stick and phone can all be seen

© Miss Estelle Beguin, University of Oxford

'Microbubbles' (pictured) consist of a gas core and a biocompatible shell. They could be used to improve the delivery of drugs to diseased targets such as tumours. This electron microscopy image shows a bubble that measures a millionth of a metre across, coated with even smaller structures called liposomes (blobs in image) containing the drug. This system enables the controlled transport and release of the drug

© Dr Andrew Capel, Loughborough University

In order to better understand neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, researchers create realistic tissue models to study their effects. This image shows a 3D model of a 'junction' between a neuron and a muscle in the body. Tests on these models could replace animal models. The elongated red stained structures are aligned muscle cells, while the green structures are neurons which can be seen extending towards the muscle in an attempt to form a neuromuscular junction

© Dr Simon Watson, University of Manchester

A Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) with an acoustic sonar, searching for simulated fuel debris at the bottom of a test pond near Fukushima, Japan. The University of Manchester research project is investigating how to find fuel debris within the Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, using a combination of radiation detection equipment and acoustic sonar, mounted on a state-of-the-art ROV

© Dr Mahetab Amer, University of Nottingham

This image shows screenings of polymers to investigate their material properties and how these can influence human stem cells’ ability to turn into bone cells.The ability of cells to attach to materials is an essential step towards the discovery of new biomaterials for growing stem cells

© Miss Claudia Gonzalez Burguete, University College London

The molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) machine at University College London (pictured) creates tailor-made electronics wafers. The wafer is the base used in electronics for the creation of circuits, which traditionally were made of silicon. The MBE machine deposits thin-film crystal layers over the substrate in a single layer using pure elements like Gallium and Arsenic

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