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Uses of mass spectrometry in carbon dating brian porzio on dating in the dark

Carbon dating determines the age of archaeological objects, or how long ago a creature died, by measuring the amount of Carbon -14 remaining inside.The method is based on the theory that every living organism contains a small but constant proportion of this radioactive carbon isotope.“Just the fact that AMS requires only a tiny sample has opened up whole new fields,” says John Southon, co-founder of the AMS facility at the University of California, Irvine.

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It’s a hugely exciting prospect, and a development Dig Ventures will be following with great interest!The technique is less time-consuming and requires a much smaller sample size than traditional carbon dating.In AMS, researchers direct a beam of cesium ions at a sample.Using these techniques, the scientists can identify seven types of anabolic steroids in a single drop of urine and do it at a rate of one sample per second.Perhaps this will finally put a nail in the coffin of baseball's Steroid Era.When the organism dies the C-14 is no longer replaced and that which remains decays at a constant rate.The time it takes for one half of a radioactive isotope to decay is known as its ‘half-life.­Of course, those applications don't attract as many headlines as a sports star testing positive for steroid use.Such headlines may become even more common as the techniques of mass spectrometry improve.These vastly different projects have one thing in common: They all use accelerators to measure levels of carbon-14 and other isotopes.CAMS is one of several dozen labs worldwide that conduct accelerator mass spectrometry, or AMS.


  1. Radiocarbon dating research has been part of the University of Arizona since 1954. The AMS Laboratory was founded in 1981 by Professors Douglas J. Donahue Physics and Paul E. Damon Geosciences with support from the National Science Foundation. It is dedicated to the advancement of fundamental research.

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