Scientists and professionals working in nuclear-related areas can now quickly reference the properties of more than 4000 nuclides and isomers using their iPhones and iPads. The mobile application, IAEA Isotope Browser, was recently made available on the iTunes App Store. The Android version of the application, or app, was released in the middle of last year and has already had 10 000 downloads.
“This app gives you a glimpse of all the nuclear data you can access in our databases, focusing on what people use most often,” said Robin Forrest, Head of the IAEA Nuclear Data Section. “Think of it as a mobile nuclear dictionary: a one-stop-shop for an overview of nuclides and their properties.”
The atoms of a particular element all contain the same number of protons in the nucleus. Different numbers of neutrons change the mass of these atoms which are called isotopes of the element. These various nuclear species are the nuclides, while isomers are two or more atomic nuclei that have the same atomic number and the same mass, but different energy states and half-lives. Understanding their properties is essential to work done in nuclear-related fields, such as energy production, and has facilitated the development of many tools and techniques, some of which are used to diagnose and treat diseases, study how climate change is affecting our environment, improve access to water and food security for people worldwide and even analyse artefacts to better understand history.
The app’s database is updated twice a year, and is stored locally on the device to allow access to the data offline — an essential feature for users working in environments without an internet connection or those in developing countries where internet access can be limited.
Interactive Chart of Nuclides
Users can now enjoy more user-friendly and interactive features with the app’s latest updates on Android as well. One of the most significant changes is the addition of an interactive chart of the nuclides that complements the app’s original Periodic Table of Elements.
When a user first opens the nuclides chart, it looks like pixelated bands of a rainbow: a colourful mosaic stretching up and up. But with a few pinching gestures on the screen — also a new feature — the user can zoom closer for a wealth of information: stamped on each colour-coded tile are the names of the different types of nuclides, and with a tap on a square, a summary of the nuclide’s properties appears. The tiles are organized according to their varying characteristics, providing the users with a simple overview of how different nuclides are related.
Additionally, users now have access to a more comprehensive range of search options that include, among other things, sorting by decay type, radiation energy and half-life. For example, users can quickly search for the half-life of specific nuclides, which can help them to gauge how long the nuclides may be of use and determine how to safely manage them.
Though nuclear data are primarily used by scientists and professionals, the ease of use and interactivity of the app makes it a beneficial tool for teachers, university students and others who are interested in adding to their knowledge of nuclear science and getting an overview of nuclides and their different properties.
The Isotope Browser app is one of the most recent innovations developed by the IAEA and represents how the Agency, over the last fifty years, has turned to the latest technological tools, services and products to collect, compile, review and disseminate nuclear and atomic data, while also serving as a coordinator and stimulus for data work worldwide.