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Here's What Happens When Engineers Hold a Photography Contest

From nanowires to self-healing concrete, see the dazzling winners of Cambridge's 2014 Engineering Photo Competition.
Pulsed laser deposited metal on glass by Jonathon Parkins

For engineering faculty and students at the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, creating the structures and technologies that could solve the problems of the future isn't just a homework assignment—it's an opportunity to make art.

Each year, the university holds the Engineering Photo Competition, a ZEISS-sponsored photo contest dedicated to the documentation of "the breadth of engineering research at the University, from objects at the nanoscale all the way to major infrastructure," according to the competition's website.


With a department-wide call for submissions, this year's competition saw over 250 entries that ranged from electron microscope images of self-healing concrete, to Photoshopped visions of extrapolated van Gogh paintings. The five categories that comprised the contest consisted of first, second and third place selections, as well as the Electron Microscopy Prize for best micrograph image, and a Head of Department prize for the photo or video with the best engineering-based story behind.

Below, check out some of the winners and finalists of the Engineering Photo Competition:

First Prize: Asteroidea Electrica by Adrianus Indrat Aria

The winning entry at this year's Engineering Photo Competition was Adrianus Indrat Aria's electron microscope image of an ultra-lightweight, free-standing graphene foam that could be used for energy storage and chemical sensing, among other things.

Second Prize: Extrapolated art III by Yarin Gal

For his second prize award-winning image, Machine Learning PhD student Yarin Gal extended the edges of van Gogh's The Starry Night using the PatchMatch algorithm. The final result, created in Photoshop, shows what the gallery wall might have looked like had van Gogh continued painting beyond the borders of his frame.

Third Prize: Francis the Engineer by Anthony Rubinstein-Baylis

Undergraduate student Anthony Rubinstein-Baylis won third prize for his image of Francis the Engineer, a rural craftsman who hopped inside a Malawian well and got the water flowing again.


Head of Department's Prize: The rise and fall of the blue and brown liquid crystal mountains by Andrew Payne

In the first few seconds of the above video, hear Andrew Payne explain the ebb and flow of liquid crystals when given an electric charge. Created from "a collection of images taken at one-second intervals," it shows a construction and collapse process much like the one that takes place under the surface of many modern TVs.

Electron Microscopy Prize: Concrete crack bridge for self-healing III by Tanvir Qureshi

Tanvir Qureshi's image of self-healing concrete won the Electron Microscopy Prize. The image shows a "bridge" being formed inside the healing zone of cement concrete, the sign of an important technological advancement being made in the field of construction materials.

Below, check out more stunning images from the Engineering Photo Competition:

The graphitic swirl by Christian Hoecker

h/t BreakingNews


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