Winning images highlight the diversity of biological and elemental structures Labmate Online

On the occasion of its 175th anniversary, Zeiss celebrated the work of researchers using microscopy in various fields of application by announcing the winners of its 2021 microscopic imaging competition. Applications from researchers from more than 50 countries highlight the characteristics of microorganisms and non-biological materials which all play a role in addressing the most pressing societal challenges related to climate change, energy, health and food.

“The evaluation process was exciting with over 1,300 fascinating applications. We have been honored by the participation of so many ZEISS users in different countries, research interests and types of microscopy applications. The quality of the images we received is amazing. Many thanks to all participants, ”said Dr Michael Albiez, Head of ZEISS Research Microscopy Solutions.

Phytoplankton – regulators of atmospheric CO2, ocean acidification and the global carbon cycle

This year’s first place went to Alicia Gónzales Segura, Dolores Molina Fernández and Isabel Sánchez Almazo from the Centro de Instrumentación Científica at the University of Granada (Spain) for their visually stunning image of Emiliania huxleyi coccospheres. “This photomicrograph was obtained as part of a study on the phytoplankton biodiversity of the Alboran Sea in the western Mediterranean, with particular emphasis on the life cycle of Emiliania huxleyi, which is probably the eukaryotic microorganism most abundant in the oceans, ”Segura said. These phytoplanktonic organisms play a major role in the regulation of atmospheric CO2, ocean acidification and the global carbon cycle. Coccoliths are well preserved in sedimentary rocks, where they have been used as indicators of age.

Towards the battery of the future

Second place went to Andreas Kopp from the Institut für Materialforschung (IMFAA) at the University of Aalen (Germany). He subjected an image of fluorides on an anode surface of a Li-ion battery, taken with a ZEISS Crossbeam 550 scanning electron microscope at a magnification of 7350x. Kopp described preparing the samples as the most difficult part. “In general, we rarely see the crystal structure of materials in nature. The growth of almost perfect cubes is directly related to the crystal system of materials. Observing these geometric particles is always fascinating and creates interesting images, ”he said. Kopp and his team use ZEISS optical and electron microscopes to assess the quality of Li-ion batteries. The demand for these energy providers and storage devices continues to grow, as do the demands.

Third place honors the diversity of ecosystems

Third place is shared between two winners. Professor Bernardo Cesare, petrologist from the University of Padua (Italy), submitted a polarized optical microscopy image of a Brazilian agate made of extremely fine-grained quartz (chalcedony). He said: “With the horizontal bands and the coarser quartz crystals in the lower, crowd-like portion, the image has been aptly named ‘The Concert’.” Cesare has studied rocks for 35 years using a polarized microscope as the first fundamental tool in his research. “The first challenge with such an image is in sample preparation, as agates are very hard, so cutting, grinding and polishing them becomes a nightmare for thin slide makers. The second challenge is to get a perfectly sharp image, because the grain size is smaller than the thickness of the sample, which induces a bit of blurring in the middle and upper bands of the image, ”he said. he adds.

Professor Cobus Visagie’s light microscopy image of fungi shows a new species of Talaromyces found in South Africa, growing on oatmeal as a growth medium. “These structures are relatively fragile, and combined with its ‘dry’ spores, they are very sensitive to any type of air flow. This sample was therefore prepared by cutting out a block of agar, placing it carefully on its side, then taking ± 100 extended depth of field images and stacking them together, ”explains Visagie, mycologist at the Institute of Forest Biotechnology. and Agriculture at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), working on the taxonomy of molds in the natural and built environment. It isolates and describes many new species of fungi. “The tools available to do this have never been better, which is very exciting,” he says, referring to microscopy. “There is something beautiful about the photographic plates of the species. They stay forever. Because of this permanence, I want my images to stand out and be the best they can be. The competition is slated to return in 2022. A selection of the images can be viewed at the link below.

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