Carbon dating

Carbon dating

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Credit: JAMES KING-HOLMES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Carbon dating. Sample preparation for carbon dating using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). The sample is being placed into the incinerator module of a mass spectrometer. The sample will be burnt and the ratio of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes measured. This gives information on sample purity. All living material incorporates a radioactive isotope of carbon, carbon-14 (14C), and a stable isotope, carbon-12 (12C), into its tissue at a known ratio. When the tissue dies the amount of 12C remains constant, but 14C decays. Measuring the amount of 14C compared to 12C in a sample indicates how long ago the tissue died. Photographed at Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, University of Oxford, UK.

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