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  Carnegie Mellon University

Bier Research Group

Linear ion trap with radial ejection, co-invented by Mark Bier. The linear ion trap with radial ejection is a payload featured on the Rosalind Franklin Mars Rover. The mission is expected to take place in 2022, where the LIT will be used to look for molecules necessary for life! See the Patents link for other inventions.

One focus of research conducted in the Bier group is heavy ion mass spectrometry (HIMS) -- a new frontier. We are developing new mass spectrometry (MS) instrumentation and methods to improve the analysis of biomolecules including macromolecular complexes such a viral particles, a major interest of the group. We are the first lab to weigh the synthetic Head II capsid of the bacteriophage HK97 at 13 MDa, ProHead I at 17.7 MDa,a multimeric capsid complex at 26+ MDa and the capsid of D3 (16.6 MDa) by distinguishing between individual charge states. These unprecedented results were accomplished using superconducting tunnel junction(STJ) cryodetector mass spectrometry. Other heavy ion complexes weighed include biomolecules such as IgM (1 MDa), von Willebrand factor (220 kDa to 1+ MDa) and synthetic nanoparticles such as quantum dots (~1 MDa) and 5nm gold particles.

Environmental mass spectrometry is a second thrust of the group. We are developing new membrane inlet mass spectrometry (MIMS) probes and ionization schemes to improve the analysis of small molecules in water and air. Our group was the first to develop a liquid/membrane/liquid interface for electrospray ionization (ESI) MS for water analysis. The dual liquid phase separated by the membrane of your choice allows for a broader array of experimental parameters to adjust and can be used with matrix messy samples like fermentation broths. Currently we are focused on developing a rapid and sensitive system of survey analysis and are directing this work to water testing related to Marcellus shale gas production. Our work has produced a device that can achieve ppb to pptr detection limits.


Our research is supported by the Berkmann Fund, CMU URO SURG & SURF programs and

HHMI     NSF     Ford Foundation     Carnegie Mellon University     Carnegie Mellon University

 photo of Mark Bier

Mark E. Bier

Research Professor and Director, Center for Molecular Analysis

Department of Chemistry
Carnegie Mellon University
Mellon Institute
4400 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-268-3540 (office)
412-268-1061 (fax)

Office: MI 555