Radiocarbon dating stone tools

Because of the short length of the carbon-14 half-life, carbon dating is only accurate for items that are thousands to tens of thousands of years old. Geologists must therefore use elements with longer half-lives.For instance, potassium-40 decaying to argon has a half-life of 1.26 billion years and beryllium-10 decaying to boron has a half-life of 1.52 million years.This is done by conversion to carbon dioxide with subsequent graphitization in the presence of a metal catalyst.Burning the samples to convert them into graphite, however, also introduces other elements into the sample like nitrogen 14.The first part involves accelerating the ions to extraordinarily high kinetic energies, and the subsequent step involves mass analysis.

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There are essentially two parts in the process of radiocarbon dating through accelerator mass spectrometry.Both carbon dating methods have advantages and disadvantages.Mass spectrometers detect atoms of specific elements according to their atomic weights.These metal discs are then mounted on a target wheel so they can be analyzed in sequence.Ions from a cesium gun are then fired at the target wheel, producing negatively ionized carbon atoms.

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