First, an electron gun strips electrons from atoms and gives them an initial kick of energy. The atoms are found in a piece of metal that is heated in a vacuum. Free electrons escape from the metal’s surface and are accelerated by specially shaped electric fields into an intense, concentrated beam.
Superconducting radio frequency cavities
The electron beam then proceeds to the electron linear accelerator (e-linac) where superconducting radio frequency (SRF) cavities propel them up to 99.99% the speed of light. The SRF cavities are made of high purity Niobium cooled to just above absolute zero. This allows them to maintain the strong radio-frequency fields required to accelerate the electrons with only a small amount of power.
Magnets steer the electron beam through a pipe, called a beam line, to an underground target hall. The steering magnets control the direction of charged particles, such as electrons, through precise changes in the strength of their magnetic fields.
A future beamline will bring protons from TRIUMF’s 520 MeV cyclotron into ARIEL as a secondary beam for isotope production. This beamline will allow TRIUMF to exploit the cyclotron to its full capacity and expand both the type and number of experiments conducted.
Specialized target stations
The beams of electrons or protons strike a production target and shatter the atomic nuclei in the target material, creating isotopes. In ARIEL, thin slabs of heavy, radioactive metals, referred to as actinide targets, are used. Studying the rare isotopes produced by these targets has the potential to make major discoveries in nuclear physics, as well as unlock new techniques for identifying and harvesting medical isotopes.
Front-end isotope separator
The isotopes created in the production target then travel to a high-resolution mass separator. The separator consists of a series of large magnets that select for isotopes of interest. The separator selects by the ratio of their mass (total number of neutrons and protons) to charge (number of protons). The ARIEL mass separator will have the highest resolving power of any such mass separator operating worldwide.
Transport to experiments
The separated isotopes travel as a particle beam up two stories to the experimental halls. Here, a wide variety of experimental equipment is used to make precise measurements of their properties and characteristics, as well as explore their practical applications.
An overview of ARIEL showing different functional sections. The diagram is also available in a high-resolution version.