Nuclear technologies are all about radioisotopes. They rely on the availability of atomic, molecular and nuclear data to provide accurate numerical information on isotopes and their decay properties. The IAEA’s Nuclear Data Section of the Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences (NAPC) within the IAEA Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications (NA) is responsible for undertaking Agency activities in the areas of development and dissemination of atomic and nuclear data for applications.
The Nuclear Data Section (NDS) has been generating, compiling and disseminating data since the early days of the IAEA. To provide quick information on the properties of over 4 000 isotopes the IAEA’s NDS has now launched the IAEA’s first android isotope application (app) – a milestone in providing a “technical app” to provide instant in-depth details on the properties of radionuclides. The Isotope Browser contains a periodic table of elements that allows for easy selection and displays information on the life cycle of each isotope. The reference tables available on the app will benefit the scientific community, in particular enabling researchers to get quick and reliable information on each of the isotopes.
Isotopes of an element all have the same number of protons in the nucleus, but varying numbers of neutrons. Isotopes are thus forms of a single element with differing mass. For example, Carbon-12 and Carbon-14 are isotopes of carbon, one with 6 neutrons and one with 8 neutrons (both have 6 protons).
Isotopes are used in a number of fields such as dating sections of corals reefs, as well as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibres going back about 5 000 years, for which Carbon-14 is used.
In nuclear medicine, radioisotopes are used for research diagnosis and treatment. In industry and for mining, radioisotopes are used to check welds, to spot leaks, to examine the rate of wear, corrosion and erosion of metals. In agriculture, they have a role to assess soil fertility and radiation is used to kill parasites and pests, and to control the ripening of stored fruit and vegetables.
Isotopes have a built in “time span” of remaining active. Being aware of the time span of an isotope is crucial in the applications of nuclear technology. In this context, the half-life of an isotope plays an important part in a number of technologies, such as nuclear medicine and for all of them timely accurate data are vital.
The newly launched app can be easily accessed through standard internet connections, a feature that is particularly relevant and useful in regions with poor or limited internet bandwidth. With the launching of the app, detailed timely information will only be a click away for academics, students, and industry, agriculture and government agencies in developing countries. Isotope Browser can be accessed on all android portable devices, such as smart phones and tablets. The app contains data that are taken from the most recent and reliable sources and has an efficient, accurate and optimal search feature. Its retrieval performance is achieved with an embedded database, meaning that once this app is downloaded it can be used in areas that have no internet connectivity. The summary data on this online app are presented in an easy scrolling list, with a details page for each nuclide containing web links to the data source and additional technical information.
The first of its kind within the IAEA, this app contributes to the Agency’s continuing efforts to provide data users in Member States with more sophisticated and quicker access to numerical data needed for their peaceful uses of nuclear applications.