Chemistry was a winner at this year’s national science photography competition organised by UK funding agency, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Among the winners were images of fatberg residues, micro-sized polymer balls, organic crystals and air pollution sensors.

The competition, which was open to researchers who received EPSRC funding, attracted 169 entries in five categories.

A colourful photo of a new triphenyl phosphite polymorph under polarised light, won Finlay Walton from the University of Glasgow first prize in the eureka and discovery category. Runner-up in the same category is chemical engineer Wei Li, from Loughborough University, with her image of lovastatin. Li used additives and temperature gradients to crystallise the cholesterol-reducing drug in a more uniform manner.

Qin Hu from the University of Nottingham scooped the innovation category award with her image of polymer balls half the width of a human hair. The balls’ intricate shapes were made by two-photon lithography, a 3D printing technique that can produced micro-sized objects.

The equipment and facilities prize was awarded to Peter Pedersen from the University of Cambridge for showing off his air pollution sensor in the scenic settings of the Alps. He originally developed the sensor as part of a citizen science project to measure cyclists’ exposure to pollutants while commuting in Cambridge.

Cranfield University’s biotechnologist Natalia Jawiarczyk won in the weird and wonderful category. Her photo of fatberg crystals was shot during her research on how these sewer-blocking deposits form and how they can be removed.

The overall winner, chosen by four judges from the EPSRC, the Royal Academy of Engineering and Press Association, shows a Syrian refugee using virtual reality to explore and improve a new shelter design. Dima Albadra from the University of Bath took the photo during a workshop at refugee camp in Jordan.