Picture of the month

On the trail of pharmaceutical development

It is no coincidence that the glasses in our picture of the month are very colourful. They contain pharmaceutical-chemical and mineral substances that were used as pharmaceuticals. The Greek word for “pharmaceutical” (pharmakon) contains not only “poison” but also “colour” as a secondary meaning. The sight glasses come from the Pharmaceutical History Collection (Schneider Collection)  of TU Braunschweig, which is looked after by the Department of the History of Science and Pharmacy.

These sight glasses in our picture of the month for November document a double wealth – substances extracted from the soil and water that continue to change or have already changed under the influence of light and air. Some of the substances come from mines, such as the nearby Rammelsberg.

The display glasses from the Collection on the History of Pharmaceuticals of the Department of the History of Science and Pharmacy contain pharmaceutical-chemical and mineral substances that were used as medicines. Picture credits: Anette Marquardt/TU Braunschweig

In the understanding of nature, minerals formed one of the three kingdoms of nature alongside plants and animals until the middle of the 19th century. In view of the dynamic development in research of the active ingredients of animal and plant organisms from this time onwards, it is often forgotten that the growing understanding of inorganic chemical processes was also central to pharmaceutical development – and this applies just as much to the development of industrial chemistry.

The traces of this development, as documented by Schneider’s unique collection of substances, were traced by Dr Anette Marquardt in her doctoral thesis.

Exploring the entanglements of industrial chemistry, pharmacy, natural history and art

Based on the multiple meanings of the word “pharmaceutical”, the Department of the History of Pharmacy, together with students of pharmacy, created an exhibition on the history of the collection over several semesters on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the collection. Under the title “Pharmakon – Farbe – Zauber – Gift – Arznei” (Pharmakon – Colour – Magic – Poison – Medicine), they traced the entanglements of commercial chemistry, pharmacy, natural history and art.

Thus, the intense yellow sulphur shown in our picture of the month not only has an antimicrobial effect, was not only traditionally used for various skin diseases as well as for coughs, it is one of the most important reactants for chemical processes. Without sulphuric acid, there would be no chemical industry.

The bluish crystals are vitriol (here the sulphate of copper containing water of crystallisation) from the Rammelsberg. The formation of mineral colours such as the toxic copper acetate arsenite (Schweinfurt green), a popular colour for walls, papers and textiles, which Vincent van Gogh also used in a self-portrait, is closely connected to vitriol. Other coloured compounds, such as Berlin blue, are considered essential medicines today as antidotes against certain poisons.

Even after the exhibition closed, the collection continued to be researched and, in particular, included in student projects. New themes can be unearthed. For example, with the topic “Medicine from the Mine”, which drew us deeper into the world of interaction between the natural environment and human trades. With the “Object of the Month” format, the collection regularly publicises new own and student research projects that shed light on special features of object and pharmaceutical history.

Pharmaceutical compositions from pearls

Pearls are presented as the object of the month for November in the Department of the History of Pharmacy. Concretions made of shells were a component of many medicinal compositions in the 16th to 18th centuries. Prepared into fine powders or small cones or as magisterium, they were usually used in combination with other substances.

From the 16th to the 18th century, pearls from shells were a component of many medicinal preparations. Prepared into fine powders or small cones or as magisterium, they were usually used in combination with other substances. Picture credits: Anette Marquardt/TU Braunschweig

They were introduced into medicinal therapy by Arab physicians. Margaritae orientales, East Indian pearls, or Margaritae occidentales, West Indian pearls, were used.

Cakes with pearls, pearl milk, master powder made of pearls, power potion with bezoar, dissolved pearls and coral are just some of the preparations that went from the court pharmacy to the Wolfenbüttel court in the 17th century, as the database “Arznei und Confect. Medicinal Culture at the Wolfenbüttel Court” reveals.

From the variety of usage of pearls until the end of the 18th century, only a few examples. Adam Lonitzer (1528 -1586) described the use of pearls to strengthen the heart, against heart tremors and dizziness. He propagated Manus Christi cum perlis (pearl sugar) for fainting. Pearls “are also good against bloody flux and dysentery.

They restrain the women’s time and make beautiful teeth.” More examples can be found on the History of Pharmacy pages in the “Object of the Month” format from the beginning of November.

Further Information

The catalogue of the exhibition “Pharmakon – Farbe – Zauber – Gift – Arznei” (Pharmakon – Colour – Magic – Poison – Medicine) is currently being published and can be ordered from bookshops or requested from the authors.

Text: Prof. Bettina Wahrig und Dr. Anette Marquardt 


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Pictures of previous months

Picture of the Month October 2023

Becoming chestnut animals by accident: Nanowires with contacting surfaces at the tip. Picture credits: Maximilian Vergin/TU Braunschweig: Maximilian Vergin/TU Braunschweig

A walk on a golden autumn day can be a lasting delight. For when cold rain drums against the windows on a grey day, the chestnuts collected during the walk and a few toothpicks can be used to make caterpillars, deer and co. Maximilian Vergin from the Institute of Semiconductor Technology at the TU Braunschweig had neither chestnuts nor toothpicks at hand. But he did have the know-how to produce microscopic nanowires from metal, complete with jewellery-like tips. What chance has concocted into nano chestnut animals is now our picture of the month for the fall. Read more

Picture of the Month September 2023

Does the nanostructured lens polarise light? Hopefully not! Picture credits: Tim Käseberg/PTB

Our picture of the month is not the new album release of the TU Braunschweig, but shows microscopic lenses from the LENA research centre. Like a magnifying glass, the micro-lenses have to be the right distance from the object of observation to see sharply. Their advantage: they get so close that even objects that are not visible with other light microscopes become visible. We received our picture of the month from scientific partners at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB). They are checking whether the necessary tricks also work. Read more

Picture of the Month August 2023

Mutated hyphae of the mould Neurospora crassa (Roter Brotschimmelpilz), which grow strongly branched due to the modification of the gene cot-1. Genetically modified strains provide a better understanding of fungal cells. Photo credit: Lucas Well/TU Braunschweig

Mushrooms are real all-rounders. On the one hand, they produce medicinal substances such as penicillin and enrich our food supply. On the other hand, they can also be dangerous for humans. Experts believe that infections with pathogenic fungi such as Candida albicans and Candida auris will increase. In the worst case, such infections can be fatal. In order to better understand fungal pathogens, Lucas Well, a doctoral student at the Institute of Genetics, is researching the harmless mould Neurospora crassa (“Roter Brotschimmelpilz“). Genetically modified strains, such as those shown in our picture of the month, provide a better understanding of fungal cells. Read more

Picture of the Month July 2023

Typical histological muscle tissue sections – here of a rabbit –  prepared with Picro-Sirius red stain, collagen is stained red and muscle fibres are stained yellow. Scale: 300 μm. Photo credit: S.Kutschke/TU Braunschweig

Healthy muscle activity is vital, not only for movement, but for many important processes such as speaking, chewing and breathing. In diseases associated with muscle atrophy, the microstructure of skeletal muscles is significantly altered. The Institute of Mechanics and Adaptronics at Technische Universität Braunschweig is working on the experimental multiscale characterisation of skeletal muscles, which can be used, for example, to make predictions about possible muscular deficits in patients in order to initiate appropriate treatment measures. Multiscale modelling also makes it possible to avoid animal experiments. Read more

Picture of the Month June 2023

Image of the NaGdF4 particles doped by Eu3+ ions made with a scanning electron microscope. The examined particles show a rough surface, indicating that they are aggregates of primary nanoparticles. Picture credits: Bogdan Semenenko/iPAT

In 2022, the Institute of Jet Propulsion and Turbomachinery (IFAS), in cooperation with MTU Maintenance Biomarkers are needed to monitor processes in biological systems such as the human body. They can, for example, help to detect diseases and their progression at an early stage and to monitor the effectiveness of a certain treatment. Commonly, gold nanoparticles or organic dye molecules are used as biomarkers. However, their emission wavelengths cannot easily be tuned to mark different structures with distinct colours. Read more

Picture of the Month May 2023

Forschungstriebwerk vom Institut für Flugantriebe und Strömungsmaschinen (IFAS): Bildnachweis: Jan Göing/TU Braunschweig

In 2022, the Institute of Jet Propulsion and Turbomachinery (IFAS), in cooperation with MTU Maintenance Hannover GmbH and the TFD of Leibniz University Hannover, successfully conducted two measurement campaigns with the research engine of TU Braunschweig. The measurement campaign consisted of two engine setups with different compressor blades. The data obtained is now being used in several research projects in the field of component fatigue as well as the construction of a digital twin of the engine. Read more

Picture of the Month April 2023

A work step on the way to single photon emitters: crystals of zinc phthalocyanine. Picture credits: Gunilla Harm/TU Braunschweig

At this point, the object in our picture of the month is still clearly visible. But the scientists at TU Braunschweig are making progress. As part of the QuantumFrontiers cluster of excellence, they have the vision of isolating individual molecules from the glowing orange crystals and selectively processing them. Attached to semiconductor surfaces, these molecules are given an incredibly tiny yet crucial task: to emit individual particles of light, photons. Read more

Picture of the month March 2023

You swallowed the tablet – and then what? How does the active substance get to where it is supposed to arrive in the body? If we know exactly how this works, medicines can be developed more efficiently and animal experiments can be reduced. To achieve this, the Institute of Microtechnology (IMT) is building chips in silicon technology that can be used to experimentally examine the absorption of active substances. Read more

Picture of the month February 2023

Concrete can absorb compressive forces, but when bending moments and tensile forces occur, the material can crack. To prevent this, reinforcement is used, for example in a base plate when building a house, often made of steel in the form of meshes or cages. Reinforcement is also necessary in 3D printing with cementitious materials in order to create load-bearing structures. One of the greatest challenges in additive manufacturing, because the good old “rebar”, as the reinforcing steel is also called, is not used here. Instead, steel structures are imprinted or filigree metal strands are carried along in the concrete strand. Scientists at TU Braunschweig are also developing textile-based reinforcement strategies in the Collaborative Research Center Transregio 277 “Additive Manufacturing in Construction”. Read more

Picture of the month January 2023

Wind power plays a crucial role in providing an environmentally friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply. One challenge in the year-round uninterrupted operation of wind turbines is the icing up of the turbine by supercooled water droplets. In winter, ice build-up due to low-hanging clouds or fog is also possible at German locations. This has a negative impact on electricity production and operational safety. In the Braunschweig Icing Wind Tunnel, scientists are investigating how ice build-up can be prevented or how de-icing can be simplified. Read more

Picture of the month December 2022

When metallic materials are exposed to stresses such as high temperatures and tensions over a long period of time, changes occur in their microstructure. In turbine blades, these lead to potential material damage, but researchers from the Institute of Materials Science are taking advantage of precisely this mechanism. They are using it to produce nanoporous membranes made of a nickel base superalloy that could be used in pharmaceuticals. What these membranes look like under the microscope is shown in our picture of the month. Read more

Picture of the month November 2022

“Research in the process of becoming” – this is how professor Martin Geier describes his picture of the month. It shows an intermediate step on the way to a physically correct simulation of a falling concrete drop. The simulation should help to understand the behaviour of fluids with large density differences. This understanding can later be used to increase the stability of shotcrete structures. On the way to this goal, professor Geier’s team is still working on parameters such as viscosity and surface tension to adapt the simulation to real conditions. Read more

Picture of the month October 2022

From left to right: five seconds of dense fog. Our picture of the month shows a section of the wind lidar project of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB). In this project, the team around Dr. Michael Eggert and Paul Wilhelm is constantly developing a system that sets new standards in remote wind measurements: PTB’s bistatic wind lidar. Although the fog image is rather a curious special case (the lidar can be used even at very low particle densities and clear visibility): In fog, the novel measuring instrument demonstrates its performance and resolution particularly impressively. Read more

Picture of the month September 2022

Whether heart valves, urinary bladders or tracheas: through tissue construction and tissue engineering, these organs have already been successfully replaced artificially in patients. Other organs, such as the stomach, are much more complex. They consist of different tissues, different cell types and are also permeated by countless blood vessels. In order to improve the quality of life of gastric resection patients with a new stomach replacement therapy, the biomechanics laboratory is researching the mechanical properties of a healthy stomach on different size scales. Read more

Picture of the month August 2022

Oregano makes people happy and insects too! – that could be the motto for our picture of the month. Oregano is an indispensable spice in Italian cuisine, but it also has numerous positive properties for humans and the environment. In the Medicinal Plant Garden of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology at Technische Universität Braunschweig, you can find not only the well-known Mediterranean oregano but also the native wild oregano. Read more

Picture of the month July 2022

Not all electron microscopes are the same. Since the first set-up in 1931, researchers have been working at great expense to achieve ever higher resolutions. The most powerful electron microscope at the TU Braunschweig, the TEM, is therefore completely sealed off from mechanical vibrations (such as trams rattling past) and magnetic fields (such as the earth’s magnetic field) at the LENA research centre. Read more

Picture of the month June 2022

UV light has a wide range of applications: Depending on the wavelength and energy intensity of the light, UV LEDs can sterilise surfaces and water, make tomatoes grow particularly tasty or be used in dermatology for skin treatments. However, the efficiency of the “invisible” UV LEDs can still be improved. A team at the Institute of Semiconductor Technology is researching this. Their approach: The crystal layers within the UV LEDs are laid out three-dimensionally as a microstructure instead of as a two-dimensional disc, as was previously the case. Analyses under the electron microscope – as seen here in the Picture of the Month June – indicate a high efficiency of the UV LEDs constructed in this way. Read more

Picture of the month May 2022

What role does a street play in the overall network? And how do the individual segments of the urban street network relate to each other? This is what the SpACE Lab at ISU – Institute for Sustainable Urbanism at Technische Universität Braunschweig is working on. The “Spatial Analytics and Crossdisciplinarity Experimentation Lab” develops data-driven methods and solutions for human centric sustainable mobility. In the work shown here, the interdisciplinary team focuses on developing a network-based user-centric categorisation of street segments. This can be used, for example, to make statements about the quality of the network for different street users. Our picture of the month May visualises this categorisation to get a better understanding of the Urban Street Network.

Picture of the month April 2022

Our picture of the month April 2022 does not show a landscape on a distant planet, but a special fabric. The piece of fabric, which measures about four by two centimetres, can be found in various places on the inside of a so-called ECG T-shirt. It is used to measure an electrocardiogram (ECG) without the patients noticing anything. The Peter L. Reichertz Institute for Medical Informatics (PLRI) at Technische Universität Braunschweig and the Medizinische Hochschule Hannover is using this to research the future of health monitoring. Read more

Picture of the month March 2022

The picture shows a scan of a ground-penetrating radar. It shows unchanging objects in the ground. If the data is combined with the position from laser measurements, a map developed from this information can be used for the navigation of mobile robots. A laser or cameras would then no longer be necessary. The Institute for Mobile Machines and Commercial Vehicles is conducting research on this in the “LoBaBo” project. Read more

Picture of the month February 2022

Here they are, the first early bloomers in the Botanical Garden poking their little heads out. The native winter aconite is one of the quickest. With its bright yellow flowers, it already has its big moment in February. Under the still leafless trees, the small tuberous flowers form dense flower carpets and set bright colour accents. Reason enough to take a closer look at the plants in our picture of the month. Read more

Picture of the month January 2022

For the researchers, the headspace GC/MS system shown in the Picture of the Month is an eagerly awaited addition for battery analysis. It was purchased for BLB diagnostic line. It will now make it possible to better understand battery aging and develop longer-lasting batteries. It is a system for the analysis of liquid electrolytes or soluble surface deposits in the components of a battery. Read more

You can find more pictures of the month in our magazine.