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All air is evacuated from the vacuum line because it has C-14 in it and is a potential contaminant.
Then a stream of oxygen is added into the system and the sample is combusted.
The carbon dioxide formed in the combustion stage is heated in the presence of pure lithium metal, which produces lithium carbide.
When all of the carbon dioxide has reacted, distilled water is added to the lithium carbide and a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in the production of acetylene gas.
The ground-up bone is treated with hydrochloric acid, which dissolves out the hard part of the bone.
By comparing this with a modern standard, an estimate of the calendar age of the artefact can be made.Learn more about Tom’s work on refining radiocarbon dating and how science is advancing our understanding of human evolution through the Palaeolithic period.Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50,000 years old.Professor Tom Higham is director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University and Principal Investigator for the Palaeo Chron Project.Tom completed his Ph D at the Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory.
The decay events for each sample are measured over a week.