Age dating contamination

Thus, even if larger samples like RATE’s “on the order of 100 mg” [6] are submitted to an AMS laboratory, only about 1 mg of carbon will actually undergo analysis.

However, the original anticipation of 100,000-year background levels has been “unrealized due to a variety of sample processing and instrument-based experimental constraints” [4].A typical sample must first be cleaned mechanically and chemically, then converted to CO by combustion (for organic samples) or acid hydrolysis (for carbonates), then chemically reduced to graphite [9, 10].For some samples, the process is even more complex, involving pre-separation of organic fractions from the more easily contaminated inorganic fractions (e.g., dating only cellulose from wood or only collagen from bone) [11].Most radiocarbon AMS laboratories process samples using a variant of the method described by Vogel [5], with apparatus and processes typically optimized for samples containing about 1 mg of carbon.While samples containing less than 0.01 mg of carbon have been successfully dated, measurement precision begins to suffer below about 0.1 mg of carbon due to counting statistics.

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