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Photo-competition brings out the beauty of science

15 Jul 2010

A shimmering wall of light, the dramatic splash of liquid metal droplet and a colourful cascade of bubbles – just three of the most eye-catching images from a new scientific photo competition.

Robert Lloyd's beautiful 'By Light Alone 1,2,3'
Robert Lloyd's beautiful 'By Light Alone 1,2,3'

Students and staff members at The University of Manchester produced some of these amazing pictures for the second School of Materials photography competition, creating images which would not look out of place in an art gallery.

The contest, held to showcase the quality of the students’ work and to allow them to consider its artistic value, attracted more than 100 entries.

These ranged from a lone bicycle in the snow to gold-coated carbon nanotubes, and all reflected their experience of working with materials.

Taking first prize in the undergraduate competition was ‘Bubble Wrap?’ by Katy Greer.  This highly-unusual wall of colour was produced using the surface of a sample which has been coated with a paint containing a 'novel corrosion-inhibiting pigment'. 

The sample was left in solution for three days and the pigment allowed water to be drawn through the paint layer, causing the bubbles and the discolouration which is caused by corrosion of the steel beneath the paint.

The undergraduate second prize was won by Yusra Haq for an overview of carbon nanotubes lying on a carbon grid. Her stark, complex image shows the nanotubes, which are sheets of ultra-thin graphene rolled up and bonded into tube-like structures, lying on a carbon grid. 

On the postgraduate side, Rhys Rhodes’ shimmering ‘Glow with the flow’ scooped first prize. This array of shades of grey and black was created by using aggregates of lead nanoparticles within a chloroform solvent.  The glow is caused by the interactions between the semiconducting nanoparticles and the phased light, and also gives the illusion of liquid metal droplets.

Runners-up in this category were ‘By Light Alone 1, 2, 3’, by Robert Lloyd, and ‘Co-polymer Patchwork’ by Robert Bird.  ‘By Light Alone’ beautifully shows various stages of metal vaporisation by light and the flow of the resultant solidified melt on a copper substrate after being exposed to one, two hundred and two thousand pulses of laser light. 

Robert Bird’s entry is a thin film created using a co-polymer.

After the success of last year’s competition, it was expanded to allow staff to enter.  Winners in their category were Michael Faulkner and Simon Todd for their micrograph of hollow polyimide microneedle arra, while Kuveshni Govender’s evocatively-named Starship Würtzite involved scanning an electron micrograph of crystalline microclusters recorded during her PhD studies.

The winners were picked by the judging panel – the head of the School of Materials Professor Paul Hogg, Dr Michael Preuss, a member of staff with a keen interest in Sci-Art and local jewellery artists Dr Sarah O’Hana and Jim Grainger, who have been working closely with the school.

The winners receive Amazon vouchers, and their images are being displayed around the campus, on the Internet and in promotional materials.

Entrants were allowed to use editing and design techniques to create dramatic and interesting images, although a number of excellent entries received had not been enhanced in any way.

Notes for editors

The full range of images are on The University of Manchester website or can be obtained from the Press Office.  Any of these can be used and full descriptions can be given as well.  Each picture is identified by the name of the student.

For media enquiries contact:
Dan Cochlin
Media Relations
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 275 8387