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Anorak | An incredible photo of a single atom visible to the naked eye wins science prize

An incredible photo of a single atom visible to the naked eye wins science prize

by | 16th, February 2018

single atom photo

Wonder no more what an atom looks like. David Nadlinger, a physicist at Oxford University, has taken a photo of an atom suspended in an electric field. The incredible thing is that this atom is visible to the naked eye. Well, we can the light emitted from it.

The image, “Single Atom in an Ion Trap”, won Nadlinger top prize in UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) science photo and imaging contest.

If we zoom in, you can see the atom – it’s the small dot in the centre of the photo.

 

 

The EPSRC reports:

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.

Laser-cooled atomic ions provide a pristine platform for exploring and harnessing the unique properties of quantum physics. They can serve as extremely accurate clocks and sensors or, as explored by the UK Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub, as building blocks for future quantum computers, which could tackle problems that stymie even today’s largest supercomputers.

“The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the minuscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality,” says Nadlinger. “A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.”

Spotter: PetaPixel



Posted: 16th, February 2018 | In: News, Strange But True, Technology Comment | TrackBack | Permalink