Atomic mass spectrometry dating

The ratio of unstable carbon-14 to stable carbon-12 atoms reveals the age of the sample—be it an ancient manuscript or a Neanderthal skull.

Isotope separation is pretty expensive, even because a big improvement in the field can be really dangerous at political-military level.Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) is a technique for measuring the concentrations of rare isotopes that cannot be detected with conventional mass spectrometers.The original, and best known, application of AMS is radiocarbon dating, where you are trying to detect the rare isotope A nuclear particle accelerator consists essentially of two linear accelerators joined end-to-end, with the join section (called the terminal) charged to a very high positive potential (3 million volts or higher). Injecting negatively charged carbon ions from the material being analysed into a nuclear particle accelerator based on the electrostatic tandem accelerator principle. The negative ions are accelerated towards the positive potential.These two pieces of information are sufficient to completely identify the ion as C atoms at the rate at which they decay.This requires sufficient atoms to be present to provide a large enough decay rate, as described above.

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