Laser spectroscopic characterization of the nuclear clock isomer 229mTh

The isotope 229Th is the only nucleus known to possess an excited state 229mTh in the energy range of a few electron volts, a transition energy typical for electrons in the valence shell of atoms, but about four orders of magnitude lower than common nuclear excitation energies. A number of applications of this unique nuclear system, which is accessible by optical methods, have been proposed. Most promising among them appears a highly precise nuclear clock that outperforms existing atomic timekeepers. Here we present the laser spectroscopic investigation of the hyperfine structure of 229mTh2+, yielding values of fundamental nuclear properties, namely the magnetic dipole and electric quadrupole moments as well as the nuclear charge radius. After the recent direct detection of this long-searched-for isomer, our results now provide detailed insight into its nuclear structure and present a method for its non-destructive optical detection, an important step towards the development of a nuclear clock.