The Isotope mass Separator On-Line facility (ISOLDE) is a unique source of low-energy beams of radioactive nuclides, those with too many or too few neutrons to be stable. The facility fulfils in fact the old alchemical dream of changing one element into another. It permits the study of the vast territory of atomic nuclei, including the most exotic species.
The high intensity proton beam from the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB) is directed into specially developed thick targets, yielding a large variety of atomic fragments. Different devices are used to ionize, extract and separate nuclei according to their mass, forming a low-energy beam that is delivered to various experimental stations.
This beam can be further accelerated, allowing various studies on nuclear reactions. Commissioned in October 2015, the new linear accelerator HIE-ISOLDE (High Intensity and Energy ISOLDE) brings the energy of the radioactive beams up to 7.5 MeV/nucleon. The new facility will ultimately accelerate the nuclei up to 10 MeV/nucleon. The accelerated beams are then sent to the Miniball station, a gamma array of high purity germanium detectors.
The ISOLDE facility has gathered unique expertise in research with radioactive beams. Over 1300 isotopes of more than 70 elements have been used in a wide range of research domains, from cutting edge nuclear structure studies, through atomic physics, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions, to solid state and life sciences. Presently more than 450 researchers are active at ISOLDE, working on about 90 experiments. About 50 experiments take data every year.