Research Article

An Ion Balance for Ultra-High-Precision Atomic Mass Measurements

Science  16 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5656, pp. 334-338
DOI: 10.1126/science.1092320

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Abstract

We have developed the analog of a double-pan balance for determining the masses of single molecular ions from the ratio of their two cyclotron frequencies. By confining two different ions on the same magnetron orbit in a Penning trap, we balance out many sources of noise and error (such as fluctuations of the magnetic field). To minimize the systematic error associated with the Coulomb interaction between the two ions, they are kept about 1 millimeter apart from each other, resulting in fractional uncertainty below 1 × 10–11. Such precision opens the door to numerous applications of mass spectrometry, including metrology, fundamental physics, and weighing chemical bonds.

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