Gallery: Eureka!

Results that take your breath away

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER (Marta Ugarte)
IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER (Marta Ugarte)

 

 

Believe it or not, our eyes contain trace amounts of metal that are essential to function. The levels of these metals are tightly controlled – but sometimes, as the result of age or disease, the regulation of this fine balance gets disrupted. This causes the metals to become toxic, which can contribute to impaired vision.

Scientists are trying to work out exactly how and why metals become toxic so that they can prevent it happening. This image shows a technique called ‘X-ray fluorescence’ in action. The image on the left is a microscope image of different cell types within the retina. The colourful shapes of the image on the right indicate the composition of phosphorus, sulphur and zinc inside the retina.

 

 

 

MIXED UP (Thomas Connolley)
MIXED UP (Thomas Connolley)

 

 

By pouring molten metal into a mould and freezing it into a solid, we can create all sorts of metallic objects: from statues to car parts. When you make ice cream it’s important to mix part way through freezing to break up clumps – the same is true for metal casting. Mixing gives the solid metal a finer structure and different properties.

Scientists are exploring ultrasound as a possible way of mixing liquid metals on an industrial scale. This image is a still from a high-speed X-ray movie of intense ‘whirlpools’ generated by ultrasound in a molten metal sample. The ultrasound source is the rectangular blob at the top of the picture, and the whirlpools are the brighter blobs in the middle.
SHEER MAGNETISM (Sarnjeet Dhesi)
SHEER MAGNETISM (Sarnjeet Dhesi)

 

 

When you pair materials together on the nanoscale, they can sometimes behave in new and interesting ways. Scientists are exploring these material pairs to try and develop new ‘artificial’ materials which have properties that are not found in nature.

Artificial magnetic materials are particularly interesting because they could have all sorts of applications, from improved temperature control systems to super-smart consumer technology.
This image shows the magnetic properties of a very thin oxide film – the different colours represent the various magnetisation states inside the material.
GREEN FUTURES (Sihai Yang)
GREEN FUTURES (Sihai Yang)
 
 
 
Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) are artificial chemical sponges that can trap certain molecules while leaving others untouched.
 
This could help them to perform all sorts of vital functions, including drug delivery, catalysis and green energy. Here we see a MOF in action as it binds with hydrocarbons, trapping them away.
ANCIENT MYSTERIES (Duncan Sayer)
ANCIENT MYSTERIES (Duncan Sayer)

 

 

These beautiful swirling colours indicate the intersection of copper and gold on the surface of a 1,500 year old Anglo-Saxon brooch. The ornamental object was found at Oakington, Cambridgeshire inside the grave of a pregnant woman.

Scientists are looking into the composition of the brooches to investigate the relationship between objects, technology and people. This could tell them more about Anglo-Saxon culture. For instance, the presence of enamel – common in West England – suggests a greater fusion of people and ideas after the collapse of the Roman Empire.
INSIDE STEEL (David Collins)
INSIDE STEEL (David Collins)
 
 
 
Metals and alloys are used to make buildings, vehicles and infrastructure like bridges and train tracks: small tweaks to the micro-structure of these materials can alter their mechanical properties, like strength and toughness.
 
The colours in this image represent microscopic crystals that make up steel, each just 0.02 mm wide – that’s about the width of human hair. The very small size of these crystals is one of the key features that make metals and alloys so strong. This particular material is a type of steel used in a BMW-MINI.

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