A university student called David Nadlinger has won the top prize in a science photography contest held by UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council later capturing a photo of one atom.
The photograph, titled “Single Atom in an Ion Trap” reveals one quadrant suspended in midair. It was captured using a DSLR camera and reveals a strontium atom’s most tiny speck. The location of the atom has been held by an electric field. When illuminated with a blue-violet laser, as shown in the photograph, the atom reemits light to make it it can be captured by an ordinary camera with a long exposure and absorbed. For perspective on just how small this landscape is, the space between the electrode tips on either side and the ion is about two millimeters.
Nadlinger is currently a PhD candidate in the University of Oxford, and that traps atoms due to his quantum computing research. He caught the picture because “the notion of being able to find one atom with the naked eye’d struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge involving the miniscule quantum universe as well as our macroscopic reality. A back-of-the-envelope calculation revealed the numbers to be in my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this specific image of a small, pale blue dot”
Other photos that took home prizes in individual categories comprised a robot taking a selfie, a round soap bubble which reveals fluid instability patterns, along with a volunteer wearing an Electroencephalography (EEG) headset to record brain activity.