Tech Project

Open Call
In Residency
Residency Outcome
Might it be possible to witness single atoms floating in space? It can be orchestrated as an immersive artwork
  • ArtAtom
  • ArtAtom Optic
    ArtAtom Optic

Description of the challenges faced by the Tech Project

Single trapped atoms can only be admired in modern research labs inaccessible to the public. Besides the Dalai Lama, only a few hundred people have had a chance to experience the fluorescence of a single ion (a charged atom) through a microscope. Nevertheless, the brightness of such an ion is comparable to that of the North Star, which can clearly be seen without any tools. The task is now to develop an imaging system and an adequate environment that will enable viewers to see a single atom in free space. A lattice of trapped atoms can also be made visible, undergoing quantum jumps from bright to dark states – one of the most peculiar features of quantum physics. In detail, the researchers will develop a free-ranging imaging system that will enable viewers, traversing an immersive environment, to witness single atoms afloat in an ion trap.

Brief description of technology

The challenge is to realize a free-ranging means for observing trapped ions that is safe for audiences, yet does not undermine the ambience of the ions’ delicate light. To meet this challenge the artists will be provided with lasers, optics, optomechanics, electronics, detectors, guiding systems, and laser security. We will develop together a laser-cooled ultra-high vacuum ion trap, coupled with a free-ranging optical system. The University of Stuttgart will provide the artists with an office and lab space as well as with special training in lasers, optics, vacuum physics and electronics.

What the project is looking to gain from the collaboration and what kind of artist would be suitable

This residency seeks to develop an artwork that will widen cultural access to the marvels of quantum behavior. Among the special foci will be the profound clash between everyday perception and the capacity to experience the uncanny features of single atoms, such as quantum jumps.

Resources available to the artist

The 5th Institute of Physics is a leading laboratory in quantum physics, quantum optics and public dissemination of such difficult topics. For the free range observation of a single ion we will develop an imaging system, consisting of a solid state lasers (12.000 EUR), optics, opto-mechanics, electronics, detectors, guiding systems, and laser security (8.000 EUR). The 2-month residency will be for 2 artists (including travel to Stuttgart, Mainz, Innsbruck) (10.000 EUR). The University of Stuttgart will provide the artists with an office, lab space and special training in lasers, op-tics, and electronics. Total: 30.000 EUR.