Photograph of a single strontium atom?

Photograph of a single strontium atom?…/image-strontium-atom-wins…


Whilst ‘surfing’ the internet I came across this interesting article relating to a prize winning photograph of a national science photography competition. The photograph is titled ‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’ and is reported to exhibit a single strontium atom. Looking closely at the photograph a small sphere can be seen between the two needle like structures.


According to the narrative of the article “the distance between the small needle tips is about two millimeters’ and when illuminated by a laser emitting ‘blue-violet’ light of a specific wave length and power,  the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph”.


Of the photograph I have no doubt that the underlying work to enable the capturing of the image is sound and significant. However, I consider that the report accompanying the photograph does not fully support the significance of the body of work to enable the photograph’s existence or fundamentally what the photograph is exhibiting.


The single strontium atom appears as a small sphere within a two millimetergap between two needles. Simple proportionality establishes that the atom is circa one tenth of one millimetre in diameter, which given our understanding of the physicality of atomic structures does not accord.


Further, we understand that strontium is an  alkaline earth metal, being a highly chemically reactive soft silver-white yellowish metallic element. Given so how is it that a single strontium atom can be first isolated and then placed within apparatus to be ‘trapped’ in an electrical field?


In short, I consider that narrative of the report falls short of clearly explaining what the photograph is actually exhibiting, in other words are we really observing a single strontium atom or has the the effects of a strontium atom reacting to bombardment with radiation which provokes emission of photons which the camera captures?


Eur Ing Dr Robert Brown (Robert) is the Executive Director of Fraser George and Associates Limited and is a Consultant Engineer in the fields Electrical Electronic and Control Engineering. Robert is also an accomplished professional Expert Witness having prepared and presented many court compliant reports and presented oral evidence within the High Court, Crown Courts and County Courts.


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