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David Nadlinger/University of Oxford/EPSRC
The winning image, “Single Atom in Ion Trap.”

A scientist captured an impossible photo of a single atom

Johnny Simon
Member exclusive by Johnny Simon

A student at the University of Oxford is being celebrated in the world of science photography for capturing a single, floating atom with an ordinary camera.

Using long exposure, PhD candidate David Nadlinger took a photo of a glowing atom in an intricate web of laboratory machinery. In it, the single strontium atom is illuminated by a laser while suspended in the air by two electrodes. For a sense of scale, those two electrodes on each side of the tiny dot are only two millimeters apart.

The image won first prize in a science photo contest conducted by UK based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).