Mass spectrometry will be able to measure the weight of individual molecules. This is stated in a study by Dutch physicists published in the journal Nature.
A group of physicists led by Professor Tobias Werner from the University of Utrecht has created single-particle mass spectrometry – a technology that will let you know the mass of one particular particle. The system is based on charge detection based on orbitrap – an electrode around which ions rotate.
Orbitraps, as a rule, are also used for multiparticle measurements, when a large number of particles immediately fall to it. Thanks to a new type of orbitrap, physicists will be able to study thousands of single molecules in a few minutes.
The signal detected by orbitrap carries two indicators at once: the amplitude is related to the charge of the ion, and the frequency determines the ratio of the mass of the ion to the charge. After that, the signal is sent to a computer, which decrypts it and provides ready-made data about the molecule.
Thanks to this method, physicists will be able to study new types of macromolecular compounds, as well as analyze a huge number of different complexes: antibodies, ribosomes, proteins and viruses.