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Currently, samples prepared here are sent to a high-precision AMS laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, for further preparation and testing.

Modern methods in mass spectrometry, far advanced since their development in the 1970s, now enable carbon dating to be applied to a wide range of new problems.

Katherine Freeman, distinguished professor of geosciences at Penn State, uses it to follow crude oil compounds released from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that were taken up by microbes living in sediments of the Gulf of Mexico.

Carbon-12, with six protons and six neutrons, makes up the vast majority of carbon on Earth, nearly 99 percent.

Carbon-13, a stable, nonradioactive isotope with six protons and seven neutrons, makes up another one percent.

Consequently, AMS dating is invaluable to a wide range of disciplines including archaeology, art history, and environmental and biological sciences.

and graphitisation lines in 2010 has enabled us to quadruple our throughput and reduce our turnaround time for AMS (now averaging 6 weeks), while maintaining our quality control, improving our background limits and reducing sample size requirements.

At the Laboratory, aside from modern and background standards, routine in-house measurements are also made on standards of like composition and age to the sample being dated.

An accelerator mass spectrometer measures the amounts of different isotopes within a sample.

For carbon dating, the process starts in an ionizing chamber, where the atoms within a sample of pure carbon are given a negative charge.

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