In early September, the first physics experiment using radioactive beams from the newly upgraded ISOLDE facility got under way: a study of tin, which is a special element because it has two double magic isotopes. ISOLDE is CERN’s long-running nuclear research facility, which for the past 50 years has allowed many different studies of the properties of atomic nuclei. The upgrade means the machine can now reach an energy of 5.5 MeV per nucleon, making ISOLDE the only Isotope Separator On-Line (ISOL) facility in the world capable of investigating heavy and super-heavy radioactive nuclei.

HIE-ISOLDE (High Intensity Energy-ISOLDE) is a major upgrade of the ISOLDE facility that will increase the energy, intensity and quality of the beams delivered to scientific users. “Our success is the result of eight years of development and manufacturing,” explains HIE-ISOLDE project-leader Yacine Kadi. “The community around ISOLDE has grown a lot recently, as more scientists are attracted by the possibilities that new higher energies bring. It’s an energy domain that’s not explored much, since no other facility in the world can deliver pure beams at these energies.”

The first run of the facility took place in October last year, but because the machine only had one cryomodule, it operated at an energy of 4.3 MeV per nucleon. Now, with the second cryomodule in place, the machine is capable of reaching up to 5.5 MeV per nucleon and therefore can investigate the structure of heavier isotopes. The rest of 2016 will be a busy time for HIE-ISOLDE, with scheduled experiments studying nuclei over a wide range of mass numbers – from 9Li to 142Xe. When two additional cryomodules are installed in 2017 and 2018, the facility will operate at 10 MeV per nucleon and be capable of investigating nuclei of all masses.

HIE-ISOLDE will run until mid-November, and all but one of the seven different experiments planned during this time will use the Miniball detection station.