Highly charged ions (HCIs) offer many opportunities for next-generation clock research due to the vast landscape of available electronic transitions in different charge states. The development of extreme ultraviolet frequency combs has enabled the search for clock transitions based on shorter wavelengths in HCIs. However, without initial knowledge of the energy of the clock states, these narrow transitions are difficult to be probed by lasers. In this Letter, we provide experimental observation and theoretical calculation of a long-lived electronic state in Nb-like Pb41+ that could be used as a clock state. With the mass spectrometer PENTATRAP, the excitation energy of this metastable state is directly determined as a mass difference at an energy of 31.2(8) eV, corresponding to one of the most precise relative mass determinations to date with a fractional uncertainty of 4×1012. This experimental result agrees within 1σ with two partially different ab initio multiconfiguration Dirac-Hartree-Fock calculations of 31.68(13) eV and 31.76(35) eV, respectively. With a calculated lifetime of 26.5(5.3) days, the transition from this metastable state to the ground state bears a quality factor of 1.1×1023 and allows for the construction of a HCI clock with a fractional frequency instability of <1019/τ.

K. Kromer, C. Lyu, M. Door, P. Filianin, Z. Harman, J. Herkenhoff, P. Indelicato, C. H. Keitel, D. Lange, Y. N. Novikov, C. Schweiger, S. Eliseev, K. Blaum, “Observation of a Low-Lying Metastable Electronic State in Highly Charged Lead by Penning-Trap Mass Spectrometry”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 131, 223002 (2023).


Related to Project B01, B02