TRIUMF's Rare Isotope Facilities


TRIUMF’s rare isotope facilities cover an industrial-scale complex combining two core elements: The existing Isotope Separator and Accelerator (ISAC) facility and the new Advanced Rare Isotope Laboratory (ARIEL). ISAC is further divided into two components, housed in adjacent buildings: ISAC I, for low and medium-energy experiments; and ISAC II for higher-energy experiments.


Each year, over 230 Canadian and international scientists come to TRIUMF to collaborate with our own scientists to carry out forefront experiments using one of almost 20 experimental facilities on topics spanning Nuclear Structure and Dynamics, Nuclear Astrophysics, Electroweak Precision Studies, Materials Science, and Life Sciences.

Key Components

TRIUMF’s rare isotope facilities are comprised of the following main parts

  • Drivers: To create rare isotopes, the 520 MeV cyclotron and the new 30 MeV electron linear accelerator (e-linac) supply high energy protons and electrons respectively to power nuclear reactions in targets.
  • Targets and Ion Sources: Targets are materials, for example uranium carbide, that when hit with a driver beam undergo nuclear reactions to produce rare isotopes. A coupled ion source strips an electron from these rare isotopes, ionizing them so that they can be manipulated in an electromagnetic beamline.
  • Rare Isotope Beam Delivery Systems:
    • Beamlines: Beamlines are specialized conduits for transporting, purifying and bunching rare isotopes from the target to experiments. The beamline includes all the components for preparing the beam, including mass separators, charge breeders and post-target accelerators.
    • Mass Separators: From the diverse mix of hundreds of rare isotopes produced in a target, mass separators use the ratio between an ion’s mass and its charge to precisely separate-out the desired rare isotope and create a purified rare isotope beam. From the mass separator the rare isotopes can be delivered to low-energy experiments like TITAN in ISAC-I or accelerated to higher energies.
    • Charge Breeders: Rare isotopes must often be further charged to enable their acceleration: the higher the charge, the more efficiently they are accelerated. Charge breeders remove more electrons to create positively charged ions.
  • Post-Target Accelerators: Accelerators in ISAC I and II accelerate ions to the energies required for TRIUMF experiments studying nuclear reactions. For example, nuclear physics experiments such as TIGRESS in ISAC II require isotopes moving at 10-20% the speed of light.
Learn more about how TRIUMF uses RIBs on our Teams & Tools page