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 to 3 MeV/nucleon. The post acceleration of radioactive beams has opened new fields of research, allowing the study of nuclear reactions with light and medium-mass radioactive projectiles. Many of these experiments use Miniball, a gamma array of high purity germanium detectors. Presently an upgrade of the machine, HIE-ISOLDE, is underway that will improve the experimental capabilities of ISOLDE in many aspects. From the autumn of 2015 radioactive beams of 5.5 MeV/nucleon will be available.
In the last 45 years the ISOLDE facility has gathered unique expertise in research with radioactive beams. Over 700 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.