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Competition entries

Competition entries

No 1 Eye of the microscope​

Valentin Haemmerli, Early Career Researcher​ | Vote now for No 1 >>

Eye of the microscope​ by Valentin Haemmerli, Early Career Researcher​

A 1 mm diameter hemispherical glass lens mounted in a thin aluminium plate, imaged under dark-field illumination through a 5x magnification objective lens. The special illumination scheme produces a unique reflection on the surface of the half-ball glass. We use this system to make a quantum light source with 2D material nanoflakes dispersed on the lens flat.‌

No 2 Powering Energy-Positive Building Innovations with Materials Engineering

Anurag Roy, Early Career Researcher | Vote now for No 2 >>

Powering Energy-Positive Building Innovations with Materials Engineering ​by Anurag Roy, Early Career Researcher​

Solar materials engineering plays a crucial role in the development of energy-positive buildings, which aim to generate more energy than they consume. The field includes efficient building materials like indoor photovoltaics, concentrators, insulation, glazing systems, and smart materials that collectively regulate heat transfer, minimising energy loss and optimizing efficiency. Renewable energy technologies enable direct clean energy generation, such as integrating photovoltaic cells into construction materials. Additionally, solar materials engineering focuses on enhancing mechanical properties and durability, ensuring building longevity and reducing maintenance and replacement requirements. Innovative solar materials exploration in materials engineering includes developing phase-change materials for energy harvesting and storage. These materials optimize energy consumption by effectively storing and releasing thermal energy. Nanomaterials and coatings advancements enhance energy efficiency by reducing heat transfer and providing self-cleaning properties. This approach considers optimal energy generation, aesthetic integration, structural integrity, thermal performance, environmental sustainability, and economic viability.

No 3 Computational Modelling of Energy Materials

Habib Ullah, Early Career Researcher | Vote now for No 3 >>

Computational Modelling of Energy Materials​ by Habib Ullah, Early Career Researcher​

First-Principles DFT/MD simulations play an important role in the design, understanding, development, and optimization of novel advanced materials (Energy Materials). In order to design an efficient Catalyst; so far, I have worked on the surface chemistry of Conjugated Polymers, Transition Metal Oxides, Encapsulated Materials, Nanomaterials, Alloys, Intercalated Materials, Composite Materials, Perovskites, and 2D materials. Through DFT/MD modellings, I am aiming to engineer the atomic and electronic properties of these materials for delivering fast reaction kinetics (OER/HER/UOR) with high efficiency, selectivity, and stability.‌

No 4 Protect water, pure water runs our life!​

Sasireka Velusamy, Early Career Researcher | Vote now for No 4 >>

Protect water, pure water runs our life!​ by Sasireka Velusamy, Early Career Researcher

Industries release pollutants that reach water bodies, affecting the environment and human health. We need an effective biodegradable material to eliminate pollutants like dyes and metal ions. I used metal oxide embedded graphene oxide with a cellulose-based membrane for adsorption. This material is suitable for large-scale industrial use. Adsorption method offers advantages such as easy use, no additional setup, low cost, low energy consumption, and effective water treatment. This research outcome will greatly impact or influence modern society.‌

No 5 Intelligent Manufacturing of Porous composites for New Generation Hydrogen Storage and Transportation system​

Renee Shang, Research Student​ | Vote now for No 5 >>

Intelligent Manufacturing of Porous composites for New Generation Hydrogen Storage and Transportation system​ by Renee Shang, Research Student

This research showcases the successful growth of zeolitic imidazolate framework-67 on the surfaces of Polyamide12 particles, with particle sizes ranging from 50 to 80 micrometers. Due to the microscopic nature of the process, a resin casting technique was employed to encapsulate the sample powder, followed by meticulous hand polishing to reveal the cross-sectional layers of the complete PA12 particles. The observed image portrays PA12 particles represented by white ellipses, while the purple halos, measuring approximately 4.54 micrometers in diameter, signify the successfully grown ZIF-67. These composite materials can be utilized in 3D printing, enabling the creation of complex structures for improved hydrogen storage applications. This breakthrough in additive manufacturing offers exciting prospects for shaping MOFs, presenting opportunities for advancements in hydrogen storage systems, including onboard applications. These findings lay the foundation for future investigations in engineering MOFs-composites for gas storage and related fields, fostering innovation in hydrogen storage technologies.​

No 6 The journal towards revealing microscopic world of mouse sagittal suture​​

Fiona Zhang, Research Student​ | Vote now for No 6 >>

The journal towards revealing microscopic world of mouse sagittal suture​ by Fiona Zhang, Research Student​

Calvarial suture is an important but understudied interconnective tissue that is essential in handling the rapid expansion of neurocranium as well as protecting it. The images show the processes of preparing and scanning the sagittal suture of a 28-week-old male mouse. The light microscopy reveals the morphology in the sagittal plane and confocal laser scanning microscopy illustrates the osteocyte network in the corresponding location. The osteocyte network distributes in both bone fronts in an asymmetrical fashion, where lower canaliculi density appears in the lower bone front. The canaliculi density increases away from the sutural gap, with a lamellae-like organisation of the orientation and sequencing of the lacunae. The microscopic features are important for understanding the perilacunar-canalicular remodelling related to mineralization and organic matrix generation, potentially shed light on the management of cranial disorders like.‌

No 7 Lacunar-canalicular network in mouse mandible

Keke Zheng, Early Career Researcher | Vote now for No 7 >>

Lacunar-canalicular network in mouse mandible​ by Keke Zheng, Early Career Researcher

A 28 week-old mouse mandible stained with Rhodamine and viewed using confocal microscopy (Leica TCS SP8 confocal laser scanning microscope, objective 63X). A molar tooth can be seen on the left hand side, and alveolar bone on the right, separated by the periodontal ligament.

No 8 The Ultrastructure of Articular Cartilage​

Jingrui Hu, Research Student | Vote now for No 8 >>

The Ultrastructure of Articular Cartilage​ by Jingrui Hu, Research Student​

We revealed the hidden world of Type-II collagen in articular cartilage using self-made polarisation-resolved multiphoton microscopy. It exhibited the collagen fibre in the extracellular matrix (green in Fig. a) and cells, elastin and mineralisation components (blue in Fig. b). Simultaneously characterised the depth-dependent hierarchy of collagen fibrils in articular cartilage (Fig. b). A stick's orientation corresponds with principal directions at each pixel, with its colour demonstrating alignment degree (red – consistent; blue – dispersed).​‌

No 9 From Dust to Ashes: Growing planets in unstable protoplanetary discs

Adrien Houge, Early Career Researcher | Vote now for No 9 >>

From Dust to Ashes: Growing planets in unstable protoplanetary discs​ by Adrien Houge, Early Career Researcher

Planets form in discs of dust and gas surrounding young stars. Their formation begins with a crucial process, so-called dust coagulation, during which tiny dust grains inherited from the interstellar medium grow into large aggregates able to build planets. However, the evolution of protoplanetary discs is punctuated by violent accretion outbursts, during which the temperature of the disc increases by several factors for ~100 years. During these events, the dust aggregates are heated, causing the sublimation of their ice content (e.g. water ice), and potentially destroying them.

No 10 Re-entrant Honeycomb Steel Reinforcement

Emmanuel Momoh, Early Career Researcher | Vote now for No 10 >>

Re-entrant Honeycomb Steel Reinforcement​ by Emmanuel Momoh, Early Career Researcher​

The “Re-entrant honeycomb steel reinforcement” is an Auxetic Structure – meaning that it expands in the lateral direction when stretched axially and contracts laterally when compressed axially, thereby resulting in a negative Poisson’s ratio. This counter-intuitive behaviour results in such reinforcements having a very wide range of potential benefits such as the ability to naturally assume double curvatures, better energy absorption, lateral confinement, and improved bonding with cementitious matrices. Although this phenomenon has resulted in a proliferation of research in the use of auxetic materials in cementitious construction, the use of auxetic reinforcement in concrete for structural applications, has not been fully harnessed. Our study, therefore, explores the application of auxetic reinforcements in cementitious construction materials.​‌

No 11 Tails of discovery

Daniela Lazaro Pacheco, Early Career Researcher​ | Vote now for No 11 >>

Tails of discovery​ by Daniela Lazaro Pacheco, Early Career Researcher​

In our research, we study the way that different movements and loads affect the health of the intervertebral disc in the spine. And we do this using oxtails. The image shows two oxtails, freshly collected from the abattoir. Getting the tails swiftly to the lab ensures that the cells within these tissues are still pulsating with life.​

We delicately remove surrounding muscle and ligaments to isolate the bone and intervertebral disc. A tail disc then finds its way into our bioreactor, a test system that allows us to simulate the living environment of the human disc, including how the disc moves during different daily activities. We can use this to understand how loading affects the cells and the overall disc health, and whether different lifestyles will nurture the disc or hasten degeneration. These answers will also illuminate a path to test the effectiveness of cutting-edge treatments like regenerative therapies.

No 12 Colour of flakes

Dee Pothinual, Research Student | Vote now for No 12 >>

Colour of flakes ​by Dee Pothinual, Research Student​

A photo of atomically thin flakes of hexagonal boron nitride under a microscope at 50 times magnification is shown. Hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) is a material that is increasingly used to fabricate 2-dimensional semiconductors in nanotechnology. hBN when combined with other 2-dimensional materials like graphene and Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDCs) is utilised to create a Single Photon Emitter (SPE) which is a building block in the manufacture of transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits. An SPE gives off one photon per cycle of electron excitation. As a host material, hBN can generate visible light under ambient conditions. The thickness of a monolayer flake is around 1/20,000 of the width a human hair. A monolayer flake is mauve, while thicker flakes are blue, green, and yellow.​‌

No 13 Ball-Milling for the Green Synthesis of Metal-Organic Frameworks: A Design-of-Experiment Approach

Qian Yu, Research Student | Vote now for No 13 >>

Ball-Milling for the Green Synthesis of Metal-Organic Frameworks: A Design-of-Experiment Approach​ by Qian Yu, Research Student

The development of solvent-minimised synthesis is crucial to decreasing dependence on traditional hazardous routes of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). This work explored the green synthesis of a copper trimethyl 1,3,5-benzenetricarboxylate (CuBTC or HKUST-1) MOF using mechanochemical synthesis by ball milling as shown in the photo. We employed a design-of-experiment (DoE) approach to systematically investigate the effects of various synthesis factors, rotational speed, weight of starting material, rotational time, DMSO amount, ball to powder ratio and standing time, on the characteristics of CuBTC. This method was focused on optimizing CuBTC key properties of crystal size, yield, and specific surface area. Here, the SEM images was provided to show the CuBTC samples obtained from different synthesis condition, which exhibit noticeable dissimilarities. This observation suggested that increasing the amount of added DMSO could enhance the surface smoothness of the crystal, as DMSO could buffer the crush between balls and materials during synthesis process.‌

No 14 Micro-sunflowers​

Siyuan Liu, Research Student​ | Vote now for No 14 >>

Micro-sunflowers​ by Siyuan Liu, Research Student​

The image is the sample of Silicon carbide (SiC), which is a widely used ceramic material for high-temperature and high-power applications due to its excellent properties, such as high hardness, high thermal conductivity, and low thermal expansion. and the image is obtained by Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) which is a powerful technique to investigate the microstructure and morphology of samples. In this image, I present a SEM picture of a SiC sample that has a sunflower-like shape. The sunflower shape of the SiC sample may be related to its growth process or its crystal structure. I found this image by sheer luck and coincidence, but it is really interesting and worth sharing.​‌

No 15 Intervertebral Disc Degeneration

Edgar David Rivera Tapia, Research Student | Vote now for No 15 >>

Intervertebral Disc Degeneration​ by Edgar David Rivera Tapia, Research Student​

Back pain is a common condition, often caused by severe degeneration of the intervertebral disc, which is the connective tissue between adjacent vertebrae in the spine. Damage to the microstructure of the intervertebral disc can change the mechanical properties, which may lead to the progression of degeneration.​

The intervertebral discs were loaded in different ways, and then imaged by polarised light microscopy to assess the damage to the different structures of the disc such as delamination between the different layers in the outer region of the disc (*), tears within the layers or voids in the central region of the disc ( ). This allows us to quantify the damage caused by different loading conditions, which will help us to develop suitable models for degeneration. These models can then be used to provide a better understanding of how degeneration occurs and can be used to evaluate new ways to treat it.​

No 16 Thermoelectric glazing ​

Mustafa Alfartoos, Research Student | Vote now for No 16 >>

Thermoelectric glazing ​by Mustafa Alfartoos, Research Student

Pursuing renewable energy sources has become increasingly imperative in achieving net-zero emissions, particularly within a society grappling with the dire consequences of pollution, surging electricity costs, and the inexorable ramifications of global warming. To this end, using sustainable materials capable of generating renewable energy holds great promise. Among these materials, thermoelectric substances have emerged as particularly intriguing, as they can directly convert heat into electrical energy. By incorporating thermoelectric materials into windows, it becomes possible to harness the natural temperature disparity between a building's interior and exterior, generating power.‌

However, it is noteworthy that high-efficiency thermoelectric materials are marred by toxicity, exorbitant cost, and scarcity.​

The accompanying image showcases our noteworthy achievement in fabricating transparent, eco-friendly, cost-effective thermoelectric glazing boasting exceptional efficiency. This groundbreaking glass design holds the potential for large-scale production. It is a viable alternative to conventional windows, providing buildings with a sustainable energy source and curbing heat loss through windows.

No 17 Once upon a spine​

Isabelle Ebisch, Research Student | Vote now for No 17 >>

Once upon a spine​ by Isabelle Ebisch, Research Student​

Intervertebral disc degeneration is one of the main reasons people suffer from chronic back pain, often resulting in years lived with disability. Yet our ability to test innovative therapies and devices to treat degenerative disc disease is limited, and the testing often does not translate to the real world. Therefore, we have built a “spine simulator” that allows us to replicate the environment of the intervertebral disc in the spine as realistically as possible in a controllable lab setting. The simulator can move, bend, and twist to replicate different daily activities such as walking, sitting, and sleeping. We are using this to investigate causes for disc degeneration such as the influence of different lifestyles, and it may even allow us to identify movements and exercises that promote disc health.

No 18 Captivating Spherulite Splendor: Peek into Microscopic Marvels!​

Cleiton André Comelli, Early career researcher​ | Vote now for No 18 >>

Captivating Spherulite Splendor: Peek into Microscopic Marvels!​ by Cleiton André Comelli, Early career researcher​

Observe the beauty of the polymeric spherulite structure captured in this extraordinary image of PEEK (Polyetheretherketone) through the lens of a scanning electron microscope. Polymers are long chains of repeating units, and when they are cooled from the melt, they can undergo the process of crystallization. When PEEK undergoes crystallization, it arranges its polymeric chains into ordered lamellae branches, which form several radial structures called spherulites. In this magnified view, a symphony of intricate spherulites unfolds, each displaying a distinct pattern of radial growth, just like ripples in a pond. The complex surface invites closer inspection, revealing interconnected filaments and delicate boundaries, evoking a sense of order and harmony. This microcosmic marvel showcases the intricacies of PEEK's structure and the incredible capabilities of scientific exploration, reminding us of the hidden wonders that lie beyond the reach of our naked eye.‌

No 19 Cute Colleagues​

Milad Latifi, Early career researcher​ | Vote now for No 19 >>

Cute Colleagues​by Milad Latifi, Early career researcher​

In our research project aimed at assessing the condition of pipes, our objective was to convert human-made pipes into eco-friendly wonders. Working alongside our dedicated team of nature inspectors, we were fortunate to have the delightful presence of our furry companions who reside near the laboratory. These precious friends possess a deep fascination for the project that benefits our planet. To ensure their safety and well-being, I always insisted that they wear a lab coat. While we couldn't provide them with their own mini lab coats, they kindly asked us to place one of the pipes outside so they could inspect the sensor connections. Additionally, they affectionately requested some nutty cookies as a token of appreciation for their efforts, thereby granting us their adorable seal of approval.‌

No 20 From a Little Spark May Burst a Flame​

Ramiz Beig Zali, Research Student​ | Vote now for No 20 >>

From a Little Spark May Burst a Flame​ by Ramiz Beig Zali, Research Student​

“Break” is what we all know in word, where we could imagine this word’s definition by remembering a scene from our memories. The question is had you ever see how it really looks like? The flames that consume living things in their eternity or a blood that boils due to the extreme heat.​

This image gives us a microscopic view of the shattering of a PVC hourglass sample after tensile testing in a University of Exeter lab. It is seen how a 10×10 mm part of the sample breaks, turning blossoms into ash like a dragon's breath.​

The research has improved our understanding of what a break is, as well as how to recognise pipe breakage modes by navigating this strange world of stretchable and flame-like patterns. Pipes which bring us the symbol of purity and life, Water.