Nuclear fusion educational animations – for Science Photo Library

Animation, Chemistry, Physics

We were recently hired to produce a series of animation clips for Science Photo Library, showing some of the complex nuclear fusion reactions that occur in the Sun, including the CNO cycle at the end. Here is a selection of our favourites!

Science Photo Library provides licensing of striking specialist science imagery, with more than 350,000 images and 20,000 clips.

Please contact us for more information.

Epic zoom – atom to galaxy

Animation, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Space

Animation of a zoom out from the inside of a single atom to the entire galaxy.

The first scene shows a single quark, one of three making up a proton (red) in the nucleus of an atom. The nucleus is surrounded by electron shells (blue). The atom is one making up one of the bases (green) in a DNA molecule, which itself makes up a chromosome (X shape) inside the nucleus (white) of a human cell (red). The cell is part of the heart, and the view pulls back from the person’s body showing the streets and buildings of Manhattan, New York City, USA. The pull back continues to show the Earth in its orbit around the Sun, with the orbits of the other planets shown. The Sun is just one of some 500 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way is thought to be some 120,000 light years in diameter (about 1.14 zettametres, or 1.14×101 metres). The proton has a charge radius of between 0.84-0.88 femtometres, or 8.4×1016 metres.

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SPL’s clip of the week (Uranium decay chain)

Animation, Chemistry, Physics

Our visualisation of the complex decay chain of a uranium atom has just been chosen as Science Photo Library‘s clip of the week.
U-238 is a radioactive element with 92 protons (red), indicated to the lower left of its chemical symbol, and 146 neutrons (yellow), giving it a total atomic mass of 238 (upper left of symbol). It is unstable and decays by emission of an alpha particle, which consists of two protons and two neutrons.

SPL’s Clip of the Week
Our stock images at SPL
Our stock animations at SPL – part 1
Our stock animations at SPL – part 2

How things work – educational animation clips – for Science Photo Library

Animation, Chemistry, Engineering, Physics

We were recently hired to produce a series of animation clips for Science Photo Library, showing how various things work. Here are our favourite eight!

Clip 1 ) Catalytic converter. It consists of a honeycomb structure, which provides a large surface area. The inside surface is lined with the catalyst, which is a combination of rhodium (Rh) and platinum (Pt) metals. On the rhodium, nitrogen oxides (nitric oxide, NO, shown here) are reduced to nitrogen and oxygen. On the platinum, carbon monoxide (CO) reacts with oxygen to form carbon dioxide;
Clip 2 ) Fuel cell. Hydrogen is introduced at the anode side, and oxygen at the cathode. A catalyst splits the hydrogen into two protons and electrons. The membrane allows the protons through to the cathode, but forces the electrons down a wire. The flow of electrons through the wire can perform electrical work. On the cathode side, the protons and electrons react with an oxygen atom, forming water;
Clip 3 ) Photocopier. Inside the machine is a rotating drum covered in a photoconductive material. The drum is charged by a corona wire (also covered in +). A bright light is used to illuminate the paper to be copied. The light is reflected via a system of mirrors to the charged drum. The photoconductive coating becomes conductive when exposed to light, so the bright, reflective regions of the paper cause the drum surface to discharge in the same pattern. A toner (negatively charged) is then applied to the drum, and is attracted to the positively charged regions, forming a toner pattern identical to the original. A blank sheet of paper is then charged and is passed under the drum, transferring the toner to the paper, reproducing the initial image;
Clip 4 ) Electron Microscope. An electron gun at the top of the column produces a beam of fast-moving electrons. These are focused by magnetic lenses , which deflect the negatively-charged electrons. A sample is introduced into the beam, absorbing and interacting with some electrons, and the remainder are focused onto a screen at the bottom;
Clip 5 ) PET scanner. The patient ingests the fluorodeoxyglucose, a radioactive tracer, and it spreads throughout the body like normal glucose, being absorbed by more active tissues, including tumours. However, the chemical has been designed to contain a radioactive 18-F fluorine atom in place of one of the normal hydroxide groups. When it decays, it emits a positron (red), which quickly collides with an electron (blue), leading to the annihilation of both, and the emission of two gamma rays (yellow) in opposite directions. The PET scanner detects these gamma rays, and uses them to locate tissues with a high glucose uptake, as seen on the screen;
Clip 6 ) Nuclear reactor. This is a pressurised water reactor, the most common type in operation. At the heat of the reactor is the core, which contains the nuclear fuel, uranium. When a neutron (yellow) hits a U-235 nucleus, it undergoes fission (left inset), releasing three more neutrons. Initially these neutrons are very fast, reducing the chances that they’ll fission another U-235 atom. However, the reactor core contains water under high pressure. Water acts as a neutron moderator (central inset), slowing it down and increasing its chances of fissioning another U-235 (right inset). This process continues in a chain reaction, producing a large amount of heat. To help control the rate of the reaction, control rods can be raised or lowered into the core. These contain boron-10 (inset), which has a high neutron absorption capability, reducing the number of neutrons available for fission. Outside the core, the hot water from the reactor (orange) is passed into a secondary water system in heat-exchanging pipes. This converts the cool water (blue) into steam (red), which drives a conventional electricity generating turbine, which sends power out to the grid;
Clip 7 ) Loudspeaker. Inside the loudspeaker is a magnet, with the south pole surrounded by a coil of wire attached to a paper cone. When the wire carries a current, I, it induces a magnetic field around the wire. This interacts with the field of the magnet, producing a force that moves the coil. The direction of the movement can be predicted using a left-hand rule, demonstrated at bottom left. This moves the coil and its attached cone, which generates sound waves. Controlling the varying current flowing in the wire therefore controls the vibration of the cone, and hence the sound it produces;
Clip 8 ) CD player. Animation showing how the tracks of microscopic bumps on a CD’s surface are used to encode digital data. If you compare a reference beam and the data beam, you can see that a change in the surface causes constructive or destructive interference with the outgoing beam, and so the changes in topology can be detected. A change in the surface topology is registered as a 1 and no change is registered as a 0.
Science Photo Library provides licensing of striking specialist science imagery, with more than 350,000 images and 20,000 clips.
Please contact us for more information.

Physics educational animation clips – batch #2 – for Science Photo Library

Animation, Physics

We were recently hired to produce a series of animation clips for Science Photo Library, as part of their educational animation licensing arm ( Here are our favourite five stock clips!

Clip 1 ) Rutherford scattering (gold foil experiment). Animation depicting the actual outcome of Rutherford’s 1909 experiment to probe the structure of an atom. At left, a source of alpha radiation is firing alpha particles (helium nuclei) at a thin sheet of gold foil (down centre). Most of the alpha particles pass straight through the foil, as was expected, but some deviate by large angles, even bouncing back at the source. The inset shows a close-up of a gold atom, revealing that its positive charge (red) is tightly concentrated in a small, dense nucleus, with the negative electrons (blue) a relatively long way from it. This demonstration led to the downfall of the prevailing “plum pudding” model of the atom, which postulated that the electrons were studded randomly in a diffuse cloud of positive charge.;
Clip 2 ) Magnetic and electric fields.  A clip showing how electricity and magnetism are connected (via the right-hand rule).  Animation showing the magnetic fields generated around a conducting wire and a coil of wire (solenoid). When the wire is coiled into a spiral tube, it is called a solenoid, and has a field similar to that of a bar magnet. A right-hand rule still applies: when the fingers are coiled in the direction of the current, the thumb points to the north pole of the solenoid.;
Clip 3 ) Animation of the electric field lines between two point charges. By convention field lines are shown with arrows indicating the direction of movement of a point positive charge placed in the field. Around a negative charge this is symmetrically towards it, and away from a positive charge. When identical point charges are placed near each other, their fields repel and do not touch. When opposite charges are next to each other, their field lines join and they attract each other.;
Clip 4 ) Charged particles in a magnetic field, and a cyclotron.  Alpha, beta and gamma radiation in a magnetic field, showing the paths taken through the field.  A cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator. A charged particle, here a hydrogen nucleus (proton), is injected at the centre of two semicircular electrodes called dees. A magnetic field (arrows) is established perpendicular to the plane of the dees. This causes the particle to move in a circular path. The voltage across the dees is reversed each time the particle is in one of the dees, constantly accelerating it towards the other. As its time in each dee is constant, the larger its path the faster it moves, and the particle spirals outwards. When it reaches the desired speed, it exits the cyclotron, and at this high energy level it is able to convert 18O to the useful radioactive tracer 18F.;
Clip 5 ) Reflection, refraction and diffraction of light.  Animation of the principle of reflection, showing a beam of light reflecting from a mirror. In reflection, the angle of incidence (red) is equal to the angle of reflection (green), whatever the angle.  In refraction, the change in direction of a wave due to a change of the medium through which it is travelling. When a beam of light passes into another medium at an angle, it deflects by an amount proportional to the difference in the speed of light between the materials, a figure called its refractive index. If it hits the surface at 90 degrees, there is no deflection but it still slows down. Snell’s law states that the sine of the angle of incidence (red) multiplied by the refractive index of the first material in equal to the sine of the angle of refraction (green) times the refractive index of the second material. The equivalent occurs when the beam leaves the material, exiting on a parallel path to the one on which it entered. The double-slit experiment demonstrates the wave behaviour of light, showing the interference pattern produced. When light passes through a double slit, it diffracts and spreads out, and interferes with the light from the adjacent slit. This leads to alternating regions where the interfering waves either cancel each other out or amplify each other, leading to a pattern of dark and light bands. For a given separation of the slits, the width of the bands depends on the wavelength of the light: longer wavelengths produce wider bands, and they are seen to narrow when the colour changes from long wavelength red to short wavelength violet.;
Science Photo Library provides licensing of striking specialist science imagery, with more than 350,000 images and 20,000 clips.
Please contact us for more information.

ESA’s Solar Orbiter, Evolved

Animation, Engineering, Physics, Space

An update of our animation of ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission, to reflect the new configuration as it is officially contracted to satellite builders Astrium.  We’ve also taken the opportunity to improve the quality of our animation, using tools and techniques developed since our previous release.
Supplied with an updated CAD file and a list of changes to materials and instrument configurations, we were able to re-make the animation in record time for less than 20% of the original cost.

View more about the Solar Orbiter mission.
BBC news report about Solar Orbiter.

Quantum Computing Illustrations

Engineering, Illustration, In the press, Physics

Illustrating quantum computing is always a challenge.  Information theory, optic benches and quantum weirdness don’t lend themselves easily to beautiful illustrations.  But that was the task given to us by the “Institut für Quantenoptik und Quanteninformation” at the University of Vienna, for their paper which has been accepted into Science.
Their paper describes a method of “Blind Quantum Computing”.  In a world where Quantum Computers are large, expensive, and are used to process sensitive data (e.g. financial transactions, secure communications), the authors anticipate that it will be necessary to perform these computations remotely, on a third party’s computer.  Blind computing involves encoding your data in such a way that they can be encrypted, sent, processed while encrypted, the result sent back and then the result decrypted.  At all stages on the remote computer the data are hidden and secure.  The paper describes and demonstrates a method for performing such a series of operations using quantum-entangled clusters of qubits.

The Arxiv pre-print paper: