How does an atom look like? The quantum physicist David Nadlinger managed to take an incredible photo

How does an atom look like? The quantum physicist David Nadlinger managed to take an incredible photo

Wear glasses or sharpen your eyesight, you may need them to see this. The quantum physicist David Nadlinger of the University of Oxford managed to capture an image that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago: a single atom suspended in an electric field visible to the naked eye.

The fantastic shot titled “Single Atom in an Ion Trap” has recently won the overall award in the scientific photography and imaging competition of the Research Council in Engineering and Physical Sciences of the United Kingdom (EPSRC). For those still wondering if the atom in the shot is the small point visible in the center.

It is perhaps necessary to clarify that the image does not properly capture the atom, as if it were a sort of selfie-atomic, but rather the light emitted by the atomic particle while an excited state is found.

‘Single Atom in a Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, of the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields coming from the metal electrodes that surround it. The distance between the tips of the small needle is about two millimeters.

When illuminated by a right blue-violet laser, the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles quickly enough to allow a normal camera to capture it in a long-exposure photograph. Laser-cooled atomic ions provide a pristine platform for exploring and exploiting the unique properties of quantum physics.

Foto: David Nadlinger

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