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

An accelerator then increases the kinetic energy of the carbon ions to 10-30 million electron volts and moves them through a tube where a powerful electromagnet makes them change direction. Because carbon-14 decays over time, the amount of it in a sample indicates the age of the sample.

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.

The radiocarbon dating laboratory Ro AMS from IFIN-HH applies the AMS dating technique using a 1MV Tandetron Accelerator (produced by High Voltage Engineering Europe).

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

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From 1949 to 1977 all radiocarbon dating analysis were made by radiometric measurements.The traditional accelerator was first developed in the early 1930s for nuclear physics research.In 1939, UC Berkeley scientists Luis Alvarez and Robert Cornog were the first to use AMS in the detection of Now, over 70 years later, cyclotrons have been replaced by an accelerator type with greater energy stability: the tandem electrostatic accelerator.Atoms are sputtered from the sample by cesium ions which are produced on a hot spherical ionizer and focused to a small spot on the sample.Negative ions produced on the surface of the sample are extracted from the ion source and sent down the evacuated beam line towards the first magnet.

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