Centrepiece: Science overlaps with art in these magnificent magnifications

With only a cursory glance at these pictures, you could be forgiven for thinking they are the latest exhibits in a modern art gallery. But look again.

These strange and colourful images are photographs of everyday objects magnified beyond all recognition by using state-of-the-art photographic techniques.

They represent the best of the annual engineering photography competition at the University of Cambridge.

The winner – Thin Film Solar Cell (1) – is by Eren Ore, a second-year PhD student in the electronics, power and energy conversion group. The image is of a solar cell, the kind used to harvest the Sun's energy. However, solar-cell technology is very costly to produce. Ms Ore is trying to develop very thin cells to produce efficient solar cells that cost less. In this photograph, a multi-layered thin film solar cell has developed various bubbles and crinkles – resulting in this beautiful, microscopic picture.

The runners up include: (2) Pooya Sareh's Origami Whirlpool, which looks at the folding rules of paper and how they can be applied to engineering; (3) Chris Forman's close-up of the eye, wings and foot of a fruit fly; (4) Rose L Spear's Microscopic cellular structure, a fluorescent staining of stainless steel; (5) the Growth of salt crystals by Matthew Kuo; (6) Weichih Lin's zinc oxide nanostructure which has been heated to 350C.

These are not just pretty pictures; they lead to advances in engineering, too