Scientist Gets Photo of a Single Atom

Scientist Gets Photo of a Single Atom

The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.The atom is being illuminated by a blue-violet laser.

In the photo, a single atom of strontium is held nearly perfectly still by an electrical field generated by a pair of electrodes.

The top prize in an annual science photography competition run by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the United Kingdom has been taken out by a remarkable image of a single atom.

"We are looking for images that will demonstrate research in action", EPSRC described the photo that they want for the competition, which was announced in October past year.

If you really zoom into the middle of this image you'll see a tiny pixel.

The tiny blue dot is an illuminated strontium atom
The tiny blue dot is an illuminated strontium atom David Nadlinger- University of Oxford

David Nadlinger, explained how the photograph came about: "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". The laser energy causes the atom to emit photons, which is why Nadlinger was able to capture it on a long-exposure snap, which was taken through the window of an ultra-high vacuum chamber, cooled to keep the atom still and ready for its close up.

Other than using extension tubes, a lens accessory that increases the focal length of an existing lens and is typically reserved for extreme close-up photography, Nadlinger used normal gear that most photographers have access to.

When you're a scientist working with atomic physics, that's a problem. They're so small, in fact, that actually seeing an individual atom is pretty much impossible without the use of high-powered microscopes.

The competition's five categories were: Eureka & Discovery, Equipment & Facilities, People & Skills, Innovation, and Weird & Wonderful.

There was also a two-part entry from Luke Cramphorn of the University of Bristol Robotics Laboratory, featuring a robotic hand and arm taking a selfie with a smartphone attached to a selfie stick, along with the photograph itself.


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