EghtesadOnline: A university student named David Nadlinger has won the top prize in a science photography contest held by UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council after capturing a photo of a single atom.
The photo, titled “Single Atom in an Ion Trap” shows a single atom suspended in midair. It was captured using a standard DSLR camera and shows the tiniest speck of a positively charged strontium atom, the Verge reported.
The atom’s place is being held by an electric field created by two metal electrodes. When illuminated with a blue-violet laser, as shown in the photo, the atom absorbed and reemits enough light to make it so an ordinary camera can capture it with a long exposure. For perspective on just how small this entire scene is, the distance between the ion and the electrode tips on either side is about two millimeters.
Nadlinger is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, and he traps atoms for his quantum computing research, according to Financial Tribune. He captured the image because “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.”
Other photographs that took home prizes in individual categories included a robot taking a selfie, a spherical soap bubble that shows fluid instability patterns, and a volunteer wearing an Electroencephalography (EEG) headset to record brain activity.