Two Birmingham PhD students have been awarded second and third place in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) photography competition.

Nina Vyas has been awarded second place in the Weird and Wonderful category for her photo “On the Edge of Glory - Sub-micron particles on the surface of a human tooth” and Andreas Lampis has been awarded third place in the Equipment category for his photo “Investigating light-matter interaction using a high-finesse optical ring cavity and cold atoms”.

2nd Place Weird Wonderful Miss Nina Vyas University of Birmingham

Nina Vyas, who is a student on the PSIBS programme, explains ‘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. At the University of Birmingham we are 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. We have 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.’

3rd Place Equipment Mr Andreas Lampis University of Birmingham

Andreas Lampis, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, said ‘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 of 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.’

Congratulating the winners and entrants, Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Yet again, the standard of entries into this year’s competition shows the inquisitive, artistic and perceptive nature of the people EPSRC supports. I’d like to thank everyone who entered; you made judging a very hard but enjoyable task.’

‘This competition helps us engage with academics and these stunning images are a great way to connect the general public with research they fund, and inspire everyone to take an interest in science and engineering.’

The competition received over 200 entries which were drawn from researchers in receipt of EPSRC funding.