New images have been captured by researchers at Griffith University of light bending around a single atom.

The research was carried out at Griffith’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics, using a laser beam directed at a single charged Ytterbium atom suspended in a vacuum. The ion was fixed in position by a high voltage electrical field.

Prof. David Kielpinski and his colleagues were able to record the images using their ‘Lighthouse lens’ technology, which famously captured an atom’s shadow during an earlier study.

“The essence of this latest experiment is that you can see a single atom bending light and the ripple effect that causes as waves of light coming off of the atom interfere with light passing around it,” said Dr Erik Streed, a researcher involved in the project at the Gold Coast campus.

The researchers can now use the information provided by the images (as seen above) to determine what is causing these ripples.

“We are taking pictures of all the light that is going past the atom. Previously, a single detector would have been used and though it was utilising much more sensitive techniques, it could only have detected a smaller ripple, which doesn’t provide as much information, he said.

“With this experiment we can really see, in living colour, the footprint that the atom is providing optically.”

“Now, instead of seeing an atom as a small dark spot, we are looking at an atom acting as an optical device; the smallest optical device possible.

Further research by Prof. Kielpinski and Dr. Streed aims to leverage this technology to develop new techniques in the transfer of information by quantum communications and quantum computation.