Gaseous radiocarbon measurements of small samples

Ruff, Matthias; Szidat, Sönke; Gäggeler, Heinz; Suter, M.; Synal, H.-A.; Wacker, L. (2010). Gaseous radiocarbon measurements of small samples. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 268(7-8), pp. 790-794. Elsevier 10.1016/j.nimb.2009.10.032

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Radiocarbon dating by means of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) is a well-established method for samples containing carbon in the milligram range. However, the measurement of small samples containing less than 50 lg carbon often fails. It is difficult to graphitise these samples and the preparation is prone to contamination. To avoid graphitisation, a solution can be the direct measurement of carbon dioxide. The MICADAS, the smallest accelerator for radiocarbon dating in Zurich, is equipped with a hybrid Cs sputter ion source. It allows the measurement of both, graphite targets and gaseous CO2 samples, without any rebuilding.
This work presents experiences dealing with small samples containing 1-40 lg carbon. 500 unknown samples of different environmental research fields have been measured yet. Most of the samples were measured with the gas ion source. These data are compared with earlier measurements of small graphite samples. The performance of the two different techniques is discussed and main contributions to the blank determined. An analysis of blank and standard data measured within years allowed a quantification of the contamination, which was found to be of the order of 55 ng and 750 ng carbon (50 pMC) for the gaseous and the graphite samples, respectively. For quality control, a number of certified standards were measured using the gas ion source to demonstrate reliability of the data.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)

UniBE Contributor:

Ruff, Matthias, Szidat, Sönke, Gäggeler, Heinz


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry








Sönke Szidat

Date Deposited:

22 Jan 2016 11:37

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:51

Publisher DOI:





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