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Superconducting Mass Spectrometry and Molecule Analysis

Project description

Cool quantum tools for biomolecule analysis

Analyzing the molecular content of a biological sample is the bread and butter of life sciences: DNA, peptides or proteins are identified by how massive they are and what building blocks they contain. This is what mass spectroscopy achieves if the molecules are isolated and highly charged in high vacuum. SuperMaMa will develop technologies to extend these capabilities for singly charged and neutral molecules. The combination of chemical functionalization, new mass filtering methods, cooling close to absolute zero and ultrafast laser light shall provide ultimate control over the motion and charge state of peptides and protein. Integrating a superconducting nanowire array with cryogenic onboard electronics will result in an ultrafast quantum camera as a universal particle detector – here first developed for biomolecules to enhance mass spectrometry and shall open new avenues in optical spectroscopy and molecular quantum interferometry.


Mass spectrometry has become a multi-billion dollar market word-wide, because it allows one to quantitatively assess the molecular content of a sample and to retrieve molecular structure information.
SUPERMAMA now aims at breaking new scientific grounds for new technologies that shall boost the capabilities of mass spectrometry as well as of optical spectroscopy. Here we specifically target singly charged and neutral high-mass proteins.
SUPERMAMA will develop, test and combine the first integrated superconducting nanowire array (SNWA) with advanced cryogenic onboard electronics in a largely re-modelled ESI-TOF-machine. The efficient detection of massive biomolecules at low kinetic energy will be an important first milestone for mass spectrometry.
The development of a new generation of photocleavable tags shall allow the preparation of neutral protein beams from mass-selected ions in focused transverse high-power laser fields.
Photo-cleavage post-ionization of tagged proteins shall also be studied as a generic tool to decouple the volatilization from the charging process. This will enable the combination of a systematic analysis of neutral proteins in the gas phase with subsequent mass spectroscopy.
The combination of all techniques shall open new avenues for few-photon calorimetry and single-photon recoil spectroscopy. The calorimetry studies will explore the sensitivity of SNWA detection to molecular heat. Future experiments will study the shift of molecular matter-wave interference fringes caused by the recoil of a single photon.
Two industrial and three academic research teams represent a highly interdisciplinary consortium of experts from mass spectrometry, superconductor technology, integrated electronic engineering, synthetic chemistry, as well as molecular beam physics and quantum optics who work together in towards their joint goal to advance mass spectrometry and optical spectroscopy in a domain that has remained unexplored so far.

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Net EU contribution
€ 768 572,50
1010 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 768 572,50

Participants (4)