Microscopic image earns global recognition

A striking magnified image of a Forsythia pollen grain generated at Plymouth University has been shortlisted for an international competition.

Created by Technical Specialist Pete Bond, from the University’s Electron Microscopy Centre, the image was listed among the finalists of the Royal Microscopical Society Scientific Imaging Competition 2015.

The competition received more than 250 entries, with all the finalists put on show at the 2015 Microscience Microscopy Congress, held in Manchester earlier this month and attended by 1,300 manufacturers, scientists, microscopists and science media from around the world.

The actual size of one Forsythia Pollen grain is about 10µm – around 1/100th of 1mm – with Pete’s image having to be magnified several thousand times in order for it to be seen by the human eye.

He says:

“The idea behind the image was to use the ultra-modern scanning electron microscope to emulate the way early microscopists displayed microscopical plants and animals in beautiful, ordered drawings and paintings. Taking one pollen grain imaged in the scanning electron microscope with colour post processing, I duplicated and arranged it in a geometric pattern to add depth and show the potential to produce artistic images from high tech science instruments.”

Electron microscopy enables items and materials to be viewed and analysed at high magnification and at very high resolution, providing unique information on micro-structure and micro-composition in areas as diverse as biomedical research, meteorite geology, forensic science, materials science and even as a tool for modern artists. 

Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre – which is based on the main city campus – was transformed in 2012 as part of a £1.3 million three-year project, jointly funded by the University, JEOL (UK) Ltd and a £579,960 grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

It has created a world-class centre for electron microscopy, giving the University state of the art support for research, teaching and industrial collaboration.