Absorption imaging of a single atom
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Absorption imaging has played a key role in the advancement of science from van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of red blood cells to modern observations of dust clouds in stellar nebulas and Bose-Einstein condensates. Here we show the first absorption imaging of a single atom isolated in a vacuum. The optical properties of atoms are thoroughly understood, so a single atom is an ideal system for testing the limits of absorption imaging. A single atomic ion was confined in an RF Paul trap and the absorption imaged at near wavelength resolution with a phase Fresnel lens. The observed image contrast of 3.1 (3)% is the maximum theoretically allowed for the imaging resolution of our set-up. The absorption of photons by single atoms is of immediate interest for quantum information processing. Our results also point out new opportunities in imaging of light-sensitive samples both in the optical and X-ray regimes.
© 2012 Nature Publishing Group. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.