Carbon 14 dating equipment
Archaeology and other human sciences use radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories.
Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and even biomedicine.
He points out that carbon-14 is also used for biomedical applications in which AMS accuracy levels are not needed.
“There are small-scale mass spectrometers that could in principle be replaced [by SCAR] now, even though the ultimate sensitivity is not yet at the level of the best mass spectrometers,” he explains.
This involves ionizing the carbon compounds, accelerating them to extremely high energies with a particle accelerator and bending the ions' paths with an electric field.
A new way to carbon-date old samples has been developed by physicists in Italy.
Unlike current methods, which involve large and costly laboratory equipment, the new technique can be performed using portable and low-cost equipment.
Radiocarbon, or carbon 14, is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms.
It is rapidly oxidized in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the global carbon cycle.
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"It is an incredibly sensitive measurement of a very small quantity of this very rare isotope," says David Nelson, atmospheric scientist at Aerodyne Research in the US.