Extreme close-ups: Microscopic clips to make you squirm

Microscopic subjects can be very hard to capture because of their delicate nature. Image: Nikon Small World/Dr. Richard Kirby

The Nikon Small World in Motion competition is hands down the coolest comp in science.

Nikon’s Small World in Motion contest is equal parts gross and mesmerising. Now in its 10th year, the cutting-edge photography comp invites scientists from around the world to submit footage of the insane stuff they’ve seen under the microscope.

With thousands of submissions from labs around the world, this year’s first prize has gone to US-based researchers – Mr. Kazi Rabbi and Dr. Xiao Yan – for their insane uber close-up of micro-droplets (80% water and 20% ethanol) coalescing. Their studies – done out of the University of Illinois – explores the significance of condensation on sustainable living and energy efficient tech.

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“Think about anything from keeping the pipes from freezing in winter to making your air conditioning unit run more efficiently,” says Rabbi of their ground-breaking work. “If we can develop surfaces and materials that better repel liquids, we can create appliances, power systems, and other technologies that require less energy to run. It could lead to a more sustainable future.”

To capture the clip, the pair used transmitted light microscopy and a high-speed camera interfaced with a microscopic lens – all while focusing on the perfect plane and maintaining good lighting. It was totally a two-person job.

Second place went to marine scientist Dr. Richard Kirby, for his darkfield video of a phoronid larva of a marine horseshoe worm, followed by James Tandoc’s third place-worthy close-up of cytoplasmic streaming in onion cells, captured using Differential Interference Contrast (DIC).

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If you’re into STEM + art, chances are you’ll totally geek out over the rest of the winning entries. Check them out here.

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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