Science

Stunning University of Cambridge Photos of Cutting-Edge Engineering

Discover state-of-the-art developments in engineeringThursday, 23 November 2017

By Jonathan Manning
A Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) image of crystalline vein graphite flakes. Vein graphite has the highest degree of crystalline perfection of all conventional graphite materials. Graphite is extensively used in the production of graphene.
This computer simulation helps to show the mechanical process of how a wound heals.

Healing Darkness by Aude Mulard

This computer simulation shows the complex fingering instabilities of a self-propelled fluid pushed against a viscous fluid. The goal of this work is to understand the mechanical process of wound healing and tumour growth. When a tumour grows in your body, lines of cancer cells may protrude out of the mass, detach themselves from it and begin invading the body. This process is called metastasis, and cancer at this stage is extremely difficult to treat.

“We find that this process shares strong similarities with a physical phenomenon called viscous fingering: when one fluid of lower viscosity (e.g. water) is pushed against a fluid of higher viscosity (e.g. oil) in a thin gap, the interface between the two liquids is not stable. Instead, it forms protrusions, and "fingers" of the less viscous fluid invade the more viscous one,” said Aude Mulard.

“There is, however, one major difference between tumour fingering and liquid fingering: a tumour is alive. This means that it grows, and that the cancer cells are ‘active’: they move by ‘self-propulsion’ and push their surroundings (which can be a healthy tissue or other cancer cells).”

The findings could help medical researchers, by telling them the few mechanical factors that promote the protrusion of cancer cells fingers, or how fast they grow. The same live tissue fingering processes are also observed when skin heals a wound.

Teaching autonomous vehicles how to see the world around them.

Teaching autonomous vehicles how to see the world around them by Alex Kendall

The image illustrates an autonomous driving algorithm which uses computer vision to understand the scene around the vehicle. The photograph is a composite of three images.

“The top image is what is seen through the camera,” says Alex Kendall. “The middle image shows the objects it sees, where each one is given a different colour. The bottom image shows the algorithm's uncertainty about what it sees, where red colours indicate that it is uncertain.”

The image shows how a temperature probe at the end of a turbine blade affects the flow of fluid.

An instrumented turbine blade by Bryn Noel Ubald

Bryn Noel Ubald, a PhD student, won the competition for his video that shows how fluid behaves as it moves over a turbine blade with a temperature probe at the front. The video forms part of a study which uses high-fidelity computational modelling to investigate the impact of measurement devices within aircraft engines.

“The unique position of a temperature probe at the leading edge has a significant impact on the flow along the blade which has a significant impact on any further measurements downstream,” said Bryn Noel Ubald.

A cell containing a liquid crystal, between crossed polarisers.

Cooling Crystals by Jennifer Jones

As the photograph was taken, the liquid crystal was cooling from its isotropic phase to eventually reach a chiral nematic phase, which would transmit only a particular range of wavelengths.

“The isotropic phase looks completely dark between crossed polarisers, but the regions which have cooled just slightly further can be seen to scatter the light and appear much brighter,” said Jennifer Jones.

A temperature gradient can also be seen: the larger bright patches towards the bottom of the photograph must be cooler than their smaller equivalents towards the top.