Carbon 14 dating process


Filtration during this phase allows contaminants to be successfully removed. After this process, the resulting material has a spongy texture with an off-white colour. The pre-treated sample is loaded onto a quartz silica boat, which is loaded into a combustion tube.It is a long tube which is hooked up to a vacuum line.Learn more about Tom’s work on refining radiocarbon dating and how science is advancing our understanding of human evolution through the Palaeolithic period.Carbon-14 is continually formed in nature by the interaction of neutrons with nitrogen-14 in the Earth’s atmosphere; the neutrons required for this reaction are produced by cosmic rays interacting with the atmosphere.The decay events for each sample are measured over a week.The results from the liquid scintillation spectrometer are carefully analysed and provide a radiocarbon age for the sample.The moa bone analysis gave a radiocarbon date of 580 plus or minus 40 years.

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The carbon dioxide is collected and bubbled through various chemicals in the line, which purify it, and the amount of carbon dioxide that has been collected is measured.This gas is then passed through a vanadium-based catalyst column, which produces liquid benzene (C).A scintillator chemical (butyl-PBD) is added to the liquid benzene.Radiocarbon present in molecules of atmospheric carbon dioxide enters the biological carbon cycle: it is absorbed from the air by green plants and then passed on to animals through the food chain.

Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.

Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.