The TU Wien group and the Metrology Light Source (MLS) in Berlin (a part of PTB) have joined forces to directly excite the Thorium isomer in the VUV. In a measurement campaign about a year ago, Th-229 doped crystals were illuminated by tunable undulator radiation at the MLS facility. A wavelength region between 124 and 240 nm was probed (5.2 to 10 eV) at illumination & detection times between 30 and 600 seconds. The result of this study has now been made available on the arXiv preprint server (find the publication here).
In short, massive photoluminescence masked any possible gamma emission of the isomer. Three different types of photocathodes were used (Cs-Te, Cs-I, diamond), where only the Cs-I version was capable of supressing the photoluminescence at longer wavelengths to a degree that allowed researchers to draw any conclusions on the energy and lifetime of the isomer. Assuming radiative decay as the only decay channel, an isomer lifetime between 0.2 and 1.1 seconds can be excluded for an isomer energy between 7.5 and 10 eV (the region of highest sensitivity of the Cs-I detector). This study complements earlier work in the group of Eric Hudson at UCLA, where a parameter region of similar energy, but longer lifetime was excluded. Also, the results of this study are in agreement with the work at LMU.
Although not successful in this campaign, the results give direct input to the design and protocol of the next round of measurements.