Radiocarbon dating 101


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WASHINGTON — Researchers from Istituto Nazionale di Ottica (INO), within Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Italy have demonstrated a new compact spectroscopic instrument that offers a highly sensitive optical method for detecting radiocarbon dioxide concentration, which can be used to carbon date fossils and archaeological artifacts.

The instrument, which uses a new approach called saturated-absorption cavity ring-down (SCAR), is described in The Optical Society's journal for high impact research, .

Each radiocarbon date has a statistical probability shown by the ± number.

This number is called a standard deviation and is a measure of the spread of measurements around the mean (average).

“Accelerator mass spectroscopy can be used to carbon date bones, wood, fabrics or anything of biological origin, pinpointing its age of up to 50,000 years ago,” said Iacopo Galli, a member of the research team.