The beauty of engineering

The best of Cambridge engineering is on show in the Department of Engineering's annual ZEISS photography competition.

Crystal tigers, metal peacock feathers and a 'nano man' are just some of the striking images featured in the Department of Engineering's annual photo competition, the winners of which have been announced today.

Bryn Noel Ubald - An instrumented turbine blade –
A unique perspective…

Winner: First prize

PhD student Bryn Noel Ubald won this year's competition for his video which shows how fluid behaves as it moves over a turbine blade and 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.

Elisabeth Gill - Gelatin Micro-fibre Initiation

Winner: Second prize

Elisabeth Gill's image, which won second prize, shows micro-scale fibres drawn from a viscous gelatin solution across a 3D printed PLA (Poly(lactic Acid) support structure, which is the sparkly material along the top on the image. The goal of her work is to use an open source 3D printing platform to create high resolution 3D biomaterial fibre 'architectures' to act as part of a tissue scaffold for 3D cell culture.

Alex Justin - Capillary Formation from
Multi-Cellular Spheroids

Winner: Third prize

Alex Justin 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.

Aude Mulard - Healing Darkness

WINNER: Head of Department prize

This computer simulation shows the complex 'fingering instabilities' of a self-propelled fluid pushed against a viscous fluid. The goal of this work is to understand the mechanical process of wound healing and tumour growth. When a tumour grows in one's body, lines of cancer cells may protrude out of the mass, detach themselves from it and begin invading the body. This process is called metastasis, and cancer at this stage is extremely difficult to treat.

Metastasis shares strong similarities with a physical phenomenon called viscous fingering: when one fluid of lower viscosity (e.g. water) is pushed against a fluid of higher viscosity (e.g. oil) in a thin gap, the interface between the two liquids is not stable. Instead, it forms protrusions, and "fingers" of the less viscous fluid invade the more viscous one.

Ravi Chitwan, PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, and Wei Tan - Small but strong: Nano-Man


This is a scanning electron micrograph showing thousands of entangled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) 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.

The competition, sponsored by ZEISS (Scanning electron microscopy division), international leaders in the fields of optics and optoelectronics, has been held annually for the last 13 years. The panel of judges included Roberto Cipolla, Professor of Information Engineering, Dr Allan McRobie, Reader in Engineering, Professor David Cardwell, Head of Department and Philip Guildford, Director of Research.

"Once again, I am blown away by the quality of the submissions we received for the photo competition. Each of these images tells a story about the work that our faculty, researchers, students and staff are doing to advance our understanding of the world, and each of those stories is told beautifully."
Philip Guildford

More of this year's shortlisted images are below. The remainder can be viewed at the Department's  Flickr page.