At ISOLDE, radioactive nuclides are produced via spallation, fission, or fragmentation reactions in a thick target, irradiated with a proton beam from the PSB at an energy of 1.4 GeV and an intensity up to 2 microA. The target and ion source are fast physico-chemical devices. The volatile nuclear reaction products are released from the high temperature target into an ion source via chemically selective processes and are extracted as a radioactive ion beam, which in many cases reaches the highest intensities available worldwide. Laser ionisation for selected chemical elements allows for further selection and in some cases can provide a beam prepared in a particular isomeric state. This unique production device is coupled to powerful mass separators from which are extracted high intensity radioactive beams of high isotopic and often isobaric purity. More than 1000 isotopes with half-lives down to milliseconds of 74 elements (Z=2 to 89) have been produced at intensities up to 1011 atoms per microA proton beam.
The large variety of available species allows the systematic investigation of atomic and nuclear properties of nuclei far from beta-stability. In addition, research takes place in related fields like astrophysics and weak-interaction physics. Solid-state physics and biomedical studies are an essential part of the scientific programme. Appropriate experimental and laboratory infrastructure is provided for external users, including electronics, computing equipment, a multi-parameter data acquisition system, laser installations, chemistry and radioactive laboratories.
ISOLDE is one experimental infrastructure within the CERN complex of nuclear and particle physics experiments. The fixed target experiments include antiproton matter experiments; hadronic structure studies with muon/hadronic beams; the relativistic heavy ion programme; etc. The dominant activity of CERN is the LHC colliding beam programme. ISOLDE itself is a multidisciplinary activity but users further benefit from free interplay of scientific and technological transfer between the infrastructure and the rest of CERN. Examples are: accelerator development (there are strong synergies between radioactive ion beam requirements and proposals to build future intense neutrino sources), silicon detectors and data processing, and simulations for beam-detector interactions.
More general-interest information can be found in a dedicated Scholarpedia article . A laboratory portrait was published as a special volume of Hyperfine Interactions: HFI 129 (2000) (please note that access to the document may not work for everybody as it is restricted by the publisher to subscribers of the journal), in 2010 a brochure about ISOLDE (see file below) was produced, and in 2011 a facility article was published in Nuclear Physics News (see file below). A new document entitled "Focus on Exotic beams at ISOLDE: A Laboratory Portrait" has been published in 2017 in the Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics. All papers are now available in 'open access' in this "Focus on Exotic Beams at ISOLDE: A Laboratory Portrait". The papers can be viewed and downloaded here: http://iopscience.iop.org/journal/0954-3899/page/ISOLDE%20laboratory%20portrait .