Here’s something you don’t see every day – a single isolated atom, captured in a photo. This is the photo that Science Photography Competition, organized by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
“Single Atom in an Ion Trap” is a photo by David Nadlinger from the University of Oxford. We bring you the winning image, along with some details. But also, take a look at a few other amazing photos from the contest.
The competition has five categories:
- Eureka & Discovery
- Equipment & Facilities
- People & Skills
- Weird & Wonderful
EPSRC explains that the atom in the winning photo is held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes around it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimeters. The atom is illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet color. It absorbs and re-emits light particles quickly enough for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photo. Here is a cropped version if you find it difficult to see:
David Nadlinger briefly explains how he took the photo:
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 miniscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality. 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.
I have chosen a few more photos from the Science Photography Competition. You can learn more and check out the complete gallery on EPSRC’s website.
Lead image: © David Nadlinger – University of Oxford: Single Atom in Ion Trap – 1st Place Equipment and Facilities and Overall competition winner