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Weighty viruses

rus particle in the electric field of the ion trap begins to oscillate. This oscillation depends on the mass (and charge) of the virus.

The team was thus able to determine the masses of three different types of viruses with diameters between 80 and 300 nm—with an astonishingly low margin of error of ±1%. The masses of the viruses can, in combination with other analytical processes, be used to infer how many building blocks are used to make up the shell of the virus or how many copies of the genetic material it contains.

These highly precise measurements were made possible by the special structure of the ion trap; instead of a classic quadrupole ion trap, Chang and co-workers chose to use a cylindrical ion trap (CIT). In this type of trap, the movement of the trapped ions is considerably more complex and not mathematically ascertainable. However, it has the advantage of a much simpler geometry. The team constructed a CIT with smaller dimensions than usual, optimized the geometry, and exchanged the usual terminal electrodes of the cylinder with transparent, electrically conducting plates. This special construction is what made application of the precise light-scattering technique for the mass determination of a single virus possible.
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Source:John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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