Look at This: Atom Casts a Tiny Shadow

By Sophie Bushwick | July 5, 2012 11:56 am

atom shadow

In the right light, everything casts a shadow—even an atom. A large object creates a shadow by physically blocking the light flying past it, and even a miniscule atom or ion can prevent photons with specific wavelengths from reaching their destinations.

Australian researchers from Griffith University captured a relatively large ytterbium atom in an ion trap, and then hit it with light of a wavelength the ytterbium could absorb. When the light reached the detector, the missing photons that the atom had gobbled up left this negative space: the shadow of a single atom, less than a millionth of a meter in length.

[via Gizmodo]

Image courtesy of Kielpinski group, Griffith University / Nature Communications

MORE ABOUT: atom, imaging, ion, look at this
  • http://discovermagazine.com larry bowman

    Amazing! Absolutely amazing!

  • Al Cibiades

    What is the implication of the “wave-like ripples” of alternating red and yellow?

  • Mephane

    @1 Al Cibiades:

    I am no physicist, but I would assume this comes from the light that reaches the detector producing interference with itself.

  • Nes

    @2 Al Cibiades & @3 Mephane
    It could also be the electron shell…
    there are 7 rings that I can see… so that would match up.

  • Georgijs

    I didn’t know that atoms can cast a shadow. This is totally amazing! How I love the Universe.

  • http://www.matthewfields.net DrMatt

    The diffraction pattern is exactly what you would expect for a round obstruction. Search terms: diffraction, obstruction

  • Carl Fishwick

    The ripples are the airy disk diffraction of the light wave http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airy_disk

  • Lascas

    I would say light is again behaving like a wave…
    It all happened before and it will happen again ^^

  • Anitta



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