One Student Captured an Awe-inspiring Photo of a Single Atom

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One student set the science photography world abuzz when he did the impossible — photographed a single atom suspended in an electric field. The photo of the atom beat out 100 other entries in the 2018 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The photo was captured with an ordinary camera using long exposure shots.

David Nadlinger, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Oxford, was able to separate a single atom from the rest after he held two electrodes two millimeters apart, according to the Independent.

Nadlinger recalled what motived him to try and obtain the photo. “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 minuscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality.”

He made sure all his calculations were correct before trying such a feat. “A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and 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.”

Typically, you wouldn’t beat able to capture a single atom on an ordinary camera. The website Quartz explained you have to have a certain amount of blue color that will reflect the light in order to have it show up on a camera.

One of the judges on the panel, Professor Dame Ann Dowling, appreciated the fact that everyone can enjoy the awe-inspired photo.

“Not only do we have really strong, attractive photographs, the stories behind them about the research and why it is being done are inspiring.”

Another judge, Professor Tom Rodden, spoke on how phenomenal the entries that he received were.

“Every year we are stunned by the quality and creativity of the entries into our competition and this year has been no exception,” he said. “They show that our researchers want to tell the world about the beauty of science and engineering.”