Remarkable photo reveals atom visible to the naked eye

A photo that captured a single positively-charged atom has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition in the United Kingdom. 

The photo, titled ‘Single Atom in an Ion,’ by the University of Oxford’s David Nadlinger, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from medal electrodes surrounding it, according to a release from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, who organized the annual competition.  

Nadlinger used an ordinary camera with a long exposure to take the photo through the window of an ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.

Two metal electrodes held the atom in a near motionless position as a laser with blue-violet color illuminated it. 

“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,” Nadlinger explained.  

“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,” he added. 

The competition received more than 100 entries from researchers who’ve received EPSRC funding. 


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