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Students transform science into art in ChemE's 3rd Annual Science & Engineering as Art Competition

By Stephanie Ashby
June 4, 2018

In April, UW ChemE held its third annual Science and Engineering as Art competition, and the winners were announced at the department’s annual Awards Day ceremony. This year’s entries included images of skin cells, brain tissue, plasma, polymers and nanoparticles, all generated through student research and experiments in chemical engineering.

Taking first place, Luke El Khoury’s image, Where the Light Is, results from shining cross-polarized light through a single carbon fiber within an epoxy matrix. The rainbow colors come from the strain fields within the matrix. Carbon fibers are as strong as metals but much lighter. Their many uses range from sports equipment to airplane parts. Luke experiments with how to make these materials stronger, lighter, cheaper and easier to produce.

Chad Curtis won second place with his image Brownian Motion Stained Glass. This heat map shows where nanoparticles are moving faster (yellow) and slower (purple) through a brain slice. Chad is using tools like these to help find improved treatments for childhood brain diseases and injuries.

In Brittany Bishop’s Quantum Fire, we can see nanomaterial powders dissolving into a solvent under ultra-violet light. At the nanoscopic scale, different-sized particles of the same material will emit different colors, resulting in the effect shown. Brittany is working on creating more-efficient materials — fluorescent nanomaterials, in particular — which can be used in biological imaging, LEDs, solar cells and more.