The beauty of materials

A high resolution, magnified image of a Gelatin Micro fibre Initiation. Various lines span from top to bottom of the frame and meet a bubbly surface towards the top.

Categories: Materials

22 January 2018


At the end of last year, creative images and video spanning tissue engineering, aircraft engines and nanotechnology won prizes in the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering 2017 ZEISS Photography Competition. Here are some of the incredible visuals that took the top prizes.

The prize was awarded to PhD student Bryn Noel Ubald for his video which shows how fluid behaves as it moves over a turbine blade with a temperature probe at the front. The video is part of a study which uses high-fidelity computational modelling to understand the impact of measurement devices within aircraft engines.

Image: Elisabeth Gill – SECOND PRIZE: Gelatin Micro-fibre Initiation.

Fellow PhD student Elisabeth Gill won second prize with this striking image of micro-scale fibres drawn from a viscous gelatin solution across a 3D printed PLA (Poly(lactic Acid) support structure – the sparkly material you can see along the top of the image. The goal of her work is to integrate an open-source 3D printing platform and a low voltage electrospinning technique to create high resolution, 3D biomaterial fibre 'architectures' to act as part of a tissue scaffold for 3D cell culture.

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Alex Justin - THIRD PRIZE: Capillary Formation from Multi-Cellular Spheroids

Research Associate Alex Justin’s image of red and blue capillary formation secured third prize. Alex works in the area of tissue engineering – the in vitro generation of large tissues and organs. This image shows two 'multi-cellular spheroids', made from a large cluster of endothelial cells, which normally coat the internal surface of blood vessels. The spheroids are embedded alongside a large number of fibroblasts into a 3D collagen hydrogel, which is similar to the extracellular matrix of native tissue. The interaction between these cell types induces the endothelial cells to sprout new capillary-sized vessels into the bulk.

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Image: Ravi Chitwan, PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, and Wei Tan, Department of Engineering - SEM PRIZE: Small but strong: Nano-Man

‘Small but strong: Nano-Man’ certainly caught the judges’ attention. This intricate micrograph was captured using a scanning electron microscope and was awarded the SEM Prize. Ravi Chitwan, PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, and Cambridge Research Associate Dr Wei Tan managed to capture thousands of entangled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in a form resembling a sculpture.

CNTs can be best described as seamless hollow tubes comprised of hexagonally arranged carbon atoms. They exhibit extremely useful material properties such as superior strength, high electrical and thermal conductivity. CNTs are 100 times stronger than steel, but only one-sixth as heavy. Using CNTs could ultimately provide improved lightning-strike protection, impact damage resistance, anti-icing capability and integrated structural health monitoring to composite aerostructures.

All images courtesy of the 2017 ZEISS Photography Competition run by the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.

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