An image of a gold chip used to trap ions for use in quantum computing has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The image by Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik and Norbert Linke, from the University of Oxford, shows the chip's gold wire-bonds connected to electrodes that transmit electric fields to trap single atomic ions a mere 100 microns above the device's surface.

Taken through a microscope in one of the university's cleanrooms, the image came first in the Eureka category, as well as winning overall against many other stunning pictures featuring research in action, in the EPSRC competition – now in its third year.

EPSRC Science Photography Competition
Microwave ion-trap chip for quantum computation: When electric potentials are applied to this chip's gold electrodes, single atomic ions can be trapped 100 microns above its surface. These ions are used as quantum bits ("qubits"), units which store and process information in a quantum computer. Two energy states of the ions act as the '0' and '1' states of these qubits. Slotted electrodes on the chip deliver microwave radiation to the ions, allowing us to manipulate the stored quantum information by exciting transitions between the 0 and 1 energy states. This device was micro-fabricated using photolithography, a technique similar to photographic film development. Gold wire-bonds connect the electrodes to pads around the device through which signals can be applied. This image is taken through a microscope in one of Oxford University's physics cleanrooms. The wire-bonding needle can be seen in the top-left corner. The Oxford team recently achieved the world's highest-performing qubits and quantum logic operations. Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik, Norbert Linke, University of Oxford