Feasibility study of measuring the Th-229 nuclear isomer transition with U-233 doped crystals
We propose a simple approach to measure the energy of the few-eV isomeric state in Th-229. To this end, U-233 nuclei are doped into VUV-transparent crystals, where they undergo alpha decay into Th-229, and, with a probability of 2 %, populate the isomeric state. These Th-229m nuclei may decay into the nuclear ground state under emission of the sought-after VUV gamma, whose wavelength can be determined with a spectrometer.
Based on measurements of the optical transmission of U:CaF2 crystals in the VUV range, we expect a signal at least 2 orders of magnitude larger compared to current schemes using surface-implantation of recoil nuclei. The signal background is dominated by Cherenkov radiation induced by beta decays of the thorium decay chain. We estimate that, even if the isomer undergoes radiative de-excitation with a probability of only 0.1 %, the VUV gamma can be detected within a reasonable measurement time.