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Stored and Cooled Ions Division
 
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Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics
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THe-TRAP Project

Overview and history

The aim of our experiment is to measure the mass ratio of tritium and helium-3 by Penning trap mass spectrometry. This is also the reason for the name "tritium-helium trap" or THe-trap. Our spectrometer was originally built at the university of Washington, Seattle, where Penning trap mass spectrometry was pioneered by Nobel Prize winner Hans Dehmelt (Nobel Prize 1989 externer Link) in the 1970s and 1980s. Later, Prof. R. S. Van Dyck Jr. externer Link joined the group. He built several penning trap spectrometers (PTS) of which precicions of 10-11 was reached.
In 2008 the latest developed PTS was transferred to the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (MPIK). The project is continued in our group, led by Prof. Klaus Blaum. The aim is now to achieve a resolution of 10-11 for the mass ratio of helium-3 and the radioactive tritium (3H). This allows the determination of their mass difference, which reveals the total energy released in the decay. This energy is also called as a Q-value. A precision of 10-11 in the mass ratio allows Q-value to be determined with 30meV precision. The Q-value is important for the Karlsruhe-tritium-N externer Linkeutrino experiment (KATRIN), which attempts to determine the mass of the anti-electron neutrino better than 0,2 eV/c2.