Pushing the size limits of radiocarbon analysis



An International Workshop on Small-Scale Radiocarbon Analysis; Zurich, Switzerland, 13–16 September 2011 Besides being an important dating tool, radiocarbon (14C) analysis is also used increasingly in carbon cycle studies and environmental sciences. New developments in accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) and sample introduction methods have allowed the downscaling of required sample sizes to a few micrograms of pure carbon. Modern techniques also make it possible to separate individual organic compounds for radiocarbon measurement, which allows targeting very specific sources of carbon out of mixed and complex matrices. These developments have created new opportunities for the use of 14C in scientific fields where its application had previously been limited by sample size. However, this has also presented new challenges with respect to sample preparation and assessment of uncertainties caused by contamination and instrumental background.