VR app takes you inside Australia's only nuclear reactor


Thursday, 16 August, 2018

VR app takes you inside Australia's only nuclear reactor

Thanks to a newly launched, freely available app, Australians can now use the power of virtual reality to journey inside the country’s only multipurpose nuclear reactor, OPAL.

Once inside, people of all ages will be able to see how neutrons, which are found in the nucleus of every atom, help to create nuclear medicine, irradiate silicon for industry or enable experiments.

Located at ANSTO’s southern Sydney campus in Lucas Heights, the OPAL multipurpose reactor is used to produce nuclear medicines, which are used for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of heart, lung and muscular skeletal conditions as well as a range of cancers.

The reactor is also used to irradiate silicon used in high-end electronics such as hybrid cars and for research into advanced superconducting materials like the next generation of batteries. All this is made possible by the OPAL reactor’s use of the atom, with the ability to split uranium atoms to generate trillions of neutrons every second.

“Thousands of scientists from industry and academia benefit from gaining access to OPAL for its neutrons for analysis and other state-of-the-art instruments every year, and they use it in many different ways, for a variety of applications,” said Rod Dowler from ANSTO’s Discovery Centre.

“From health to researching our environment, supporting industry and helping create new technologies that help us live more sustainably, nuclear science is vital to our futures.”

For security reasons, few people have the opportunity to see the real OPAL up close, so the new VR experience gives Australians a unique opportunity to get close to the heart of the action. Entering the unseen world of atoms, users will be able to follow three possible journeys of the neutron inside the multipurpose reactor.

“This VR experience means that everyone will be able to experience the amazing technology from their home or their school,” said Dowler.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play, and can be viewed in 2D or 3D VR. The VR experience is also on show at the Australian Museum as part of National Science Week and the Sydney Science Festival, running between 9.30 am and 3 pm until 17 August.

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