High-accuracy Penning trap mass measurements on exotic ions for fundamental studies

Like few other parameters, the mass of an atom and its inherent connection with the atomic and nuclear binding energy is a fundamental property, a unique fingerprint of the atomic nucleus. Each nuclide comes with its own mass value different from all others. For short-lived exotic atomic nuclei the importance of its mass ranges from the verification of nuclear models to a test of the Standard Model, in particular with regard to the weak interaction and the unitarity of the Cabibbo–Kobayashi–Maskawa quark mixing matrix. In addition, accurate mass values are important for a variety of applications that extend beyond nuclear physics. Mass measurements on stable atoms now reach a relative uncertainty of 10-11. This extreme accuracy contributes, among other things, to metrology, for example the determination of fundamental constants and a new definition of the kilogram, and to tests of quantum electrodynamics, E=mc2, and fundamental charge, parity, and time reversal symmetry [1]. The introduction of Penning traps into the field of mass spectrometry has made this method a prime choice for high-accuracy measurements on short-lived and stable nuclides. This is reflected in the large number of traps in operation, under construction, or planned world-wide. With the development and application of proper cooling and detection methods the trapping technique has the potential to provide the highest sensitivity and accuracy, even for very short-lived nuclides far from stability. This contribution describes the basics and recent progress made in ion trapping, cooling, and detection for high-accuracy mass measurements with Penning traps. Special attention is devoted to the applications of accurate mass values in different fields of physics.


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