Precision Penning Trap Mass Spectrometry


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A Penning ion trap mass spectrometer measures atomic masses by measuring ratios of cyclotron frequencies of ions trapped in a strong magnetic field. The Florida State Precision Penning Trap, which uses single ions and cryogenic electronics, has produced many of the world's most precise atomic masses. Brought into operation at FSU by Edmund Myers in 2003 it was originally developed by the ICR group of David Pritchard at MIT. At FSU it has been further developed and used to measure the atomic masses of over 40 isotopes with fractional uncertainties near of below 10-10.

Precise atomic masses have applications to several areas of physical science. These applications include the quest to determine the absolute mass of neutrinos, the determination of more precise values of fundamental constants - such as the fine structure constant and the proton/electron mass ratio, the testing of QED atomic theory, and the testing of molecular structure theory. More generally, precise masses of stable isotopes provide the "backbone" of the global evaluation of all atomic mass data. They are often used to calibrate less precise mass spectrometers such as those used to measure short-lived isotopes produced at accelerators.

Acknowledgements: This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation and by the the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Precision Measurement Grants Program).