An image of a gold chip used to trap ions for use in
quantum computing has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The image by Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik and Norbert Linke, from the University of Oxford, shows the chip's gold wire-bonds connected to electrodes that transmit electric fields to trap single atomic ions a mere 100 microns above the device's surface.
Taken through a microscope in one of
the university's cleanrooms, the image came first in the Eureka category, as well as winning overall against many other stunning pictures featuring research in action, in the EPSRC competition – now in its third year.
Microwave ion-trap chip for quantum computation: When electric potentials are applied to this chip's gold electrodes, single atomic ions can be trapped 100 microns above its surface. These ions are used as quantum bits ("qubits"), units which store and process information in a quantum computer. Two energy states of the ions act as the '0' and '1' states of these qubits. Slotted electrodes on the chip deliver microwave radiation to the ions, allowing us to manipulate the stored quantum information by exciting transitions between the 0 and 1 energy states. This device was micro-fabricated using photolithography, a technique similar to photographic film development. Gold wire-bonds connect the electrodes to pads around the device through which signals can be applied. This image is taken through a microscope in one of Oxford University's physics cleanrooms. The wire-bonding needle can be seen in the top-left corner. The Oxford team recently achieved the world's highest-performing qubits and quantum logic operations.
Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik, Norbert Linke, University of Oxford
2nd place – Eureka: Curious neurons. This image shows the complexity of the developing brain cells. Cells send protrusions to sense other cells and connect to them (shown in green). This research aims to help identify the environmental elements necessary to grow stem cells for use in therapeutic treatments for people with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The image was de-noised, with saturation and sharpness increased slightly. The image was taken at Keele University with a Nikon 80i microscope with a Hamatsu ORCA camera.
George Joseph, Keele University
3rd place – Eureka: Mating pair of critically endangered Costa Rican lemur leaf frogs, displaying the two colourations the frogs cycle between on a daily basis. The lemur leaf frog (Agalychnis lemur) is one of the rarest frogs in the world, with the Costa Rican variety confined to just one or two small sites in the country.
The frog undergoes a rapid and distinct colour change most nights from pale green to dark brown, and is one of a small group of species that reflects strongly in the near infrared region, matching the reflection of the leaves it sits on beyond the visible wavelengths of light.
As well as illustrating that nature never does quite what you expect, seeing the pair in the same conditions but different colourations, helped Blount design new tests to better understand the unique optical properties of these frogs and the benefits they impart to assess how the species is recovering in the wild.
Chris Blount, University of Manchester
1st place – Weird and wonderful: A spinning dancer: A rotating jet of a viscoelastic liquid. A smooth jet can form from a liquid flowing out of a nozzle, like a water tap. When the nozzle is rotating, the jet starts to ‘dance’ due to the centrifugal force. Here, this liquid jet, like a spinning dancer, was produced by adding a tiny amount of polymer into water, which made the liquid behave surprisingly differently from clean water. The polymer molecules act as tiny springs in the mixture and tend to restore any deformation of the jet. This effect, together with the centrifugal force, makes the liquid exhibit a complex curved shape, like a graceful spinning dancer, while the surface tension produces ripples on the surface of the jet.
Professor Omar Matar, Imperial College London
2nd place – Weird and wonderful: On the Edge of Glory: Sub-micron particles on the surface of a human tooth. This is a false-colour electron micrograph of the dentinal tubules in a human tooth, with sub-micron silica particles, about 800 nanometres small, hanging onto the edge of the surface. The University of Birmingham is investigating how antimicrobial particles can be put into teeth to kill bacteria that invade the tubules during dental decay, thus preventing further damage to the tooth. We are researching a new way to push sub-micron particles further into the channels, using the large forces generated by cavitation bubbles. These are bubbles that implode on themselves and generate high-speed microscopic jets and shock waves. The university study has shown that the sub-micron particles can be delivered into the tubules after just a one second blast of cavitation bubbles, and more research is being done into how to improve the efficiency of this process. This could lead to a novel way of treating dental disease using nano-dentistry.
Nina Vyas, University of Birmingham
3rd place – Weird and wonderful: Micro-Metal Flower. The image is an electron microscopy image of a silicon (Si) wire with gold at the tip. These Si wires are envisaged to find applications in future electronic integrated circuits (ICs). Si wires are prepared in the chemistry laboratories using gases/chemicals and gold at temperatures above 500°C. The wires used to grow with a liquid metal at the tip throughout the process. Upon completion of the process, by cooling down the experiment to room temperature, the liquid metal solidifies to appear as a flower like morphology.
Dr Dhayalan Shakthivel, University of Glasgow
1st place – Equipment: Wowing the Crowds: Creating a 9.5m ‘spike’ wave for the crowd during a public open day at FloWave, Edinburgh. Twice a year the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility opens its doors to the public. This image shows one group behind the facility’s most impressive ‘party trick’ - the Spike - during the 2015 ‘Edinburgh Doors Open Day’. More technically described as a ‘Concentric Wave Singularity’ the ‘backwards ripple’ combines more than 2000 waves into a central focus and is analogous to a two-dimensional supernova. The huge spike easily hits the ceiling 9.5m above the water’s surface and is one of the highlights of the demonstration where a variety of ‘party tricks’ are shown alongside the test facility’s more usual task of accurately replicating the ocean at scale.
Stuart Brown, University of Edinburgh
2nd place – Equipment: Dark field light microscopy picture of a 40 nm thick electrodeposited TiO2 layer. This research focuses on developing sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen, through water splitting reactions. This can be done by creating functional systems that incorporate biological and synthetic catalysts in nanostructured, often photoactive, materials such as titanium dioxide materials. Using photoactive materials will allow researchers to harness sunlight to drive the water–splitting reactions to produce the desirable hydrogen which can then be stored as fuel. This process is carbon-free and it comes from an inexhaustible resource. Using dark field microscopy, it will bring better insights into the materials that they are working on, and allow them to fine tune their process and improve on the system.
Katarzyna Sokol, University of Cambridge
3rd place – Equipment: Investigating light-matter interaction using a high-finesse optical ring cavity and cold atoms. In this experiment we are studying the fundamental aspects of light-matter (photon-atom) interaction. We use potassium atoms which we trap and cool to a temperature very close to absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius). We then probe those atoms with resonant light, to investigate the behaviour of the system. To enhance the probe light intensity, per photon, we use three high-reflectivity mirrors to form a triangular (ring) cavity. This way, a photon bounces about 700 times between the mirrors before it exits the cavity. By having a large atom number (~100 000) interacting with the cavity light, we enter a regime in which many interesting quantum phenomena can be observed. In this regime, light and matter cannot be thought as separate entities any more but rather as a combined system. The photo shows the aforementioned ring cavity being used in our experiment which is placed in an ultra-high vacuum chamber.
Andreas Lampis, University of Birmingham
1st place – People: iCub and the Tutor. During infancy, children learn from their experiences of the world around them. Through playing with objects they build up an understanding of what objects are and how to use them, along with concepts about the basic physics of the world such as object permanence. In this research, researchers are modelling how young infants learn and applying it to a humanoid robot. The aim is to develop a mechanism for robots to learn about the basic physics of the world through understanding objects. Here, the iCub robot is learning about how to play from the baby.
Dr Patricia Shaw, Aberystwyth University
2nd place – People. Tunnelling into London’s Past. The photo was taken using an iPhone 5s by Akos Revesz, who works on a London Underground, EPSRC (merged with EUED, i-STUTE consortium) and London South Bank University supported the research project. The key objective of the project is to investigate the potential for utilising heat accumulated in the surroundings of the London Underground tunnels for low carbon heating. In the picture, researchers are approaching the platform level that is approximately 27m below the ground in a disused station at York Road. The station is located between King's Cross and Caledonian Road and has been permanently closed since 1932. The site is currently used only as a state-of-the-art technological testing facility, and contains a fascinating ambience where many of the original features of the Tube stand the test of time.
Akos Revesz, London Southbank University
3rd place – People: Children welcoming earthquake engineering researchers to Lapsibot. EPSRC sponsored a number of academics to join the Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team’s earthquake reconnaissance mission to Nepal. This mission was one of 5 missions supported by EPSRC over the last five years. While earthquakes are tragic for those communities that are affected they are an invaluable opportunity to understand what happens during these events and how to better protect communities from future events. This photo was taken in the village of Lapsibot where the UN helicoptered in researchers to investigate impacts. The smiles on the children’s faces mask the devastation that occured in this village. Most of the houses in the village had either totally or partially collapsed and the earthquake had triggered many landslides that were continuing to pose a risk to the villagers. These landslides hampered relief efforts severely as unstable slopes continually swept away the access roads to the village.
Dr Sean Wilkinson, Newcastle University
1st Place – Innovation: Where there is light, there is shadow. The image shows engineering PhD student Karen Yu working on the ultra-precise ultrafast laser system developed by the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Ultra Precision. Extremely small, well controlled features can be created using ultrafast light pulses. These light pulses occur on a timescale faster than heat can pass between the atoms of the material resulting in very little heat damage to the surrounding areas.
In this image, a piece of glass is being processed with a high-power ultrafast laser. This causes very bright plasma to form. The glass block channels the light through its sides, resulting in a bright white glow emanating from the processing area which casts shadows around the room.
Jonathon Parkins , University of Cambridge
2nd place – Innovation: Fluid streams from an oscillating microbubble. The photograph shows fluid streamlines generated by a gas microbubble exposed to an ultrasound wave. Microbubbles are only a few micrometres big, on the same scale as bacteria or the diameter of a human hair. They comprise of a gas core enclosed by a thin shell, and are frequently used in the clinic as contrast agents for echocardiography. In the presence of ultrasound, they oscillate by cyclically expanding and contracting. This causes the displacement of the surrounding fluid and the generation of a fluid flow, which takes the form of counter-rotating vortices. In this photograph, fluorescent microparticles are added to the fluid in order to visualise the flow streamlines using a microscope. Image contrast enhancement and colouring was performed using ImageJ. Importantly, the observed fluid flow could be exploited in therapeutic applications as a means of effectively transporting drugs towards desired locations within the body (ie. cancer tissues).
Dr Dario Carugo, University of Oxford
3rd place – Innovation: Laser Image of a Million Degree Celsius Plasma Column. The central object is a plasma, formed when a huge electrical current (1 million amps) passes through a circle made of thin, upright carbon rods (the four vertical black bars). The current heats the rods and hurls streams of plasma into the centre of the circle, forming a dense, rippling plasma column at a temperature of over a million degrees celsius. Despite this violent formation process, this plasma is very stable, confirming a recent mathematical theorem important for computer simulations of plasmas. The ripples are called 'caustics', which form when light is diffracted by the plasma, reminiscent of the lines of light visible on the bottom of a swimming pool. The image is formed by shining a laser beam (1ns pulse length, 532nm wavelength, 5cm diameter) through the plasma and taking a photo.
Mr Jack Hare, Imperial College London