15 breathtaking images you need to see from the EPSRC annual science photography competition

An image of an atom, an extreme close-up of a butterfly’s wing and a photo of a robotic arm taking a selfie are some of the images that are featured in a prestigious science photography competition.

The winning image came from David Nadlinger, whose photo, “Single atom in an ion trap”, was captured through the window of a vacuum chamber in an Oxford University laboratory, using an ordinary digital camera on a long exposure shot.

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.

Other photos which impressed the judges included an extreme close-up of a butterfly’s wing captured by Bernice Akpinar from Imperial College London and 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 selfie stick and a mobile phone.

Here are all the stunning photos from the competition.

1. Single atom in an ion trap

Overall winner and first prize in Place Equipment & Facilities category (David Nadlinger/University of Oxford/EPSRC)

This picture, taken at the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University, shows a single glowing atom of strontium.

The atom is cooled by a laser inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber. The work provides a pristine platform for exploring and harnessing the unique properties of quantum physics.

2. Nature’s nano-sized net for capturing colour

First prize in the Weird and Wonderful category (Bernice Akpinar/Imperial College London/EPSRC)

This picture, taken using an Atomic Forces Microscope, shows the surface of a butterfly wing and the ridges that trap sunlight and produce a dazzling array of colours.

The ridges in the picture are one micron in height and connected by a series of cross-ribs which trap incident light, producing a colour whose brilliance never fades.

3. Placental pop art

Second place in the Weird and Wonderful category (Dr Rosalind Aughwane/UCL/EPSRC)

This colourful image is described as placental “pop art”.

These images show automatically segmented chorionic vascular trees obtained from high resolution photography.

4. Just mud, or the future sustainable concrete?

Third place in the Weird and Wonderful category (Alastair Marsh/University of Bath/EPSRC)

This picture shows mud – highlighting its potential as the future sustainable concrete.

Researchers believe that mud has the potential as a construction material to help house the world’s growing population in a sustainable manner, and are looking to see how it could replace concrete blocks that are used for much of the current new housing around the globe.

5. In a kitchen far far away… 

First prize in the Eureka and Discovery category (Mr Li Shen/Imperial College London/EPSRC)

This picture was taken in a kitchen using two Quality Street tins, an oven tray, parts of a Tesco water bottle, a piece of transparency paper, Fairy Liquid, a builder’s lamp and a DSLR camera, and shows two vastly different physical phenomena studied in the research into how foams form and behave in lubricants and products like drinks.

6. Biodegradable microbowls could help fight stubborn cancers

Second place in the Eureka and Discovery category (Tayo Sanders II/Institute of Biomedical Engineering/University of Oxford/EPSRC)

This photograph shows a biodegradable microbowl which could help fight stubborn cancers.

The bowl-shaped particles are injected along with the anti-tumour drugs and could help them penetrate further into the diseased area after ultrasound is applied as it encourage gas bubbles to oscillate and carry the drug deeper.

7. An in-vitro 3D tissue engineered model of neuromuscular junction formation

Third place in the Eureka and Discovery category (Andrew Capel/Loughborough University/EPSRC)

This photograph is of an in-vitro 3D tissue engineered model of neuromuscular junction formation which helps scientists understand how neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s progress within a human.

Traditionally this testing is done through the use of animal models, which are not only ethically questionable, but do not accurately represent the unique physiology of a human being.

8. Microbubble for drug delivery

First prize in the Innovation category (Estelle Beguin/University of Oxford/EPSRC)

This electron microscope image shows a microbubble coated with nano-sized liposomes containing a drug.

The technology is used to enhance the contrast of ultrasound diagnostic images and is also being explored for therapeutic applications and to improve the delivery of drugs to diseased targets such as tumours.

9. High throughput screening: In search of serendipity

Second place in the Innovation category (Dr Mahetab Amer/University of Nottingham/EPSRC)

This picture shows the screening of hundreds 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.

10. Building blocks for a lighter future

Third place in the Innovations category (Sam Catchpole Smith/University of Nottingham/EPSRC)

This picture shows aluminium building blocks.

The lattice structures manufactured via selective laser melting – a type of additive manufacturing or 3D printing – have exceptional strength and stiffness, allowing engineers to significantly reduce the weight of components.

11. Searching for simulated Fukushima fuel debris using an AVEXIS ROV

Second place in the Equipment and Facilities catgeory (Dr Simon Watson/University of Manchester/EPSRC)

This photograph shows an AVEXIS Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) with an acoustic sonar, searching for simulated fuel debris at the bottom of a test pond.

The research project is investigating how to localise and identify fuel debris within the Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, using a combination of radiation detection payloads and acoustic sonar, mounted on a state-of-the-art ROV.

12. Molecular beam epitaxy machine

Third place in the Equipment and Facilities category (Claudia Gonzalez E Burguete/UCL/EPSRC)

This picture shows a Molecular beam epitaxy machine. The machine creates tailor-made wafers by depositing thin-film crystal layers over the substrate in a single crystal layer-based system.

The wafer is the base used in electronics for the fabrication of the integrate circuits, which were traditionally made of silicon.

13. Spiderman on George IV Bridge

First prize in the People and Skills category (Richard Coyne/University of Edinburgh/EPSRC)

This picture shows a volunteer – affectionately named “Spiderman” because of his headgear – wearing an EEG headset as he walks along George IV Bridge, a busy thoroughfare just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Rarely used outdoors before this project, EEG (Electroencephalography) is a way of recording brain activity.

Following the successful pilot, 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.

14. Lady’s Finger crop – benefits of smart irrigation

Second place in the People and Skills category (Lucy Bryden/Heriot Watt University/EPSRC)

This picture shows the fruits from two Lady’s Finger (Okra) crops grown in India for the same length of time, showing the benefits on the left of smart irrigation.

The smart automated system in Buddha Garden, India, 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 which has increased yields by 100%, reduced water and energy consumption by 82% as well as labour and composting requirements.

15. Roboselfie

Third place in the People and Skills category (Luke Cramphorn/University of Bristol Robotic Laboratory/EPSRC)

This picture shows a robot taking a selfie. The newly designed, seven-degrees-of-freedom tactile manipulator has a hand with six TacTip sensors and demonstrates how a smartphone is one of many objects that the robot is capable of holding.


Most Read in World