JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Scientist using an elemental analyzer coupled to a mass spectrometer to analyse and purify carbon produced from incineration of organic samples, as preparation for radiocarbon dating them. The analysis of the total gases produced by a sample is done by an integral mass spectrometer and the carbon fraction converted to graphite pellets, which are used to determine the value of the carbon-14 isotope by an accelerator mass spectrometer. Evaluation of this figure and comparison with the proportion of carbon-12 present leads to a figure for an age of the original sample.
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