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An optical method is developed for the precise mass determination of submicron size charged particles. The measurement is carried out in a hyperbolic quadrupole ion trap electrode system in vacuum by adjusting particle trajectory star shape patterns. This method does not involve gravity so this may be suitable to use in space applications in weightlessness. Due to the imperfect electrode alignment of the ion trap the mass/charge ratio can now be calculated by means of the corresponding electrical parameters with a relative accuracy of 103. Since the measured parameter is frequency the relative accuracy of the mass measurement could later be increased to 106. Combined with stepwise electron loss events induced by UV radiation it is possible to determine the mass of a single particle in the 109–1012 amu range with similar precision. These findings would seem to indicate the feasibility of a novel optical method for high precision mass determination of a single particle in the submicron diameter range. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.