A photo of a single atom within a vacuum chamber has scored a coveted photography prize.
If you peer closely at the photo above, you can see a tiny purple dot in the center. What youa re looking at is a single strontium atom, suspended in a vacuum at Oxford University, and it has one the top prize in an annual science photography competition.
The incredible thing about is it was taken with an ordinary digital camera. The photo, titled Single Atom in an Iron tap, was taken by David Nadlinger and shows the view through a window of a vacuum chamber in the university’s laboratory.
The metal electrodes you see holding the strontium atom are just two millimeters apart, and they were able to hold the atom in place long enough for a blue-violet laser to illuminate it and enable a photo. It was the top photo out of more than 100 entries for the 2018 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council science photography competition.
“An image of a single positively-charged strontium atom, held near motionless by electric fields, has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC),” reads a statement from the council. “‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres. When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.”