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DR CHRISTINE PRIORIn conventional radiocarbon dating, you’re measuring the presence of the C-14 when you measure the radioactive decay.
The C-14 decays with the beta particle, and you have some detection equipment and you count the C-14s one by one.
When you’re measuring something like a pollen concentrate or a single seed out of a sediment, you really need to do AMS because you simply don’t have enough material for conventional dating.
So if you have very large samples – you’ve got a big hunk of wood out of an archaeological site or a big piece of charcoal or something – and you have a very limited budget, conventional dating is worth doing because you get a result and you can possibly get more results with your budget than with AMS dating.
However, in many circumstances, sample size dictates AMS.
AMS is faster and needs a much smaller sample, but is more expensive.
Also shown are views of bone preparation at the Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory.
Accelerator mass spectrometry is not dependent upon the radioactive decay.
A mass spectrometer is an instrument that uses a series of magnets to bend a beam of ions and then physically count how many there are, so with AMS radiocarbon dating, we can measure a carbon-12, 13 and 14 beam, and we measure the ratio of 14 to 13, and from that, we can tell how much C-14 is in the sample.So the most important things about AMS radiocarbon dating as opposed to conventional is that the sample size is much, much smaller.