Carbon dating alternatives
After pretreatment, samples for radiocarbon dating are prepared for use in an accelerator mass spectrometer by converting them into a solid graphite form.
This is done by conversion to carbon dioxide with subsequent graphitization in the presence of a metal catalyst.
Ions from a cesium gun are then fired at the target wheel, producing negatively ionized carbon atoms.
The first part involves accelerating the ions to extraordinarily high kinetic energies, and the subsequent step involves mass analysis.
In mass analysis, a magnetic field is applied to these moving charged particles, which causes the particles to deflect from the path they are traveling.
If the charged particles have the same velocity but different masses, as in the case of the carbon isotopes, the heavier particles are deflected least.
An accelerator mass spectrometer, although a powerful tool, is also a costly one.
Establishing and maintaining an accelerator mass spectrometer costs millions of dollars.