Uses mass spectrometry radioactive dating
The sensitivity still needs to be improved to compete with state-of-the-art carbon dating techniques, but the new method has a relatively small size and cost.
It could also be practical in fields such as pharmaceutical testing and environmental monitoring.
In conventional cavity ring-down spectroscopy, which has been around for over years, researchers fill a cylindrical cavity with a gas sample and briefly shine light into the cavity at a wavelength where the trace gas absorbs.
After turning off the light, mirrors at each end continue to reflect the photons back and forth thousands of times until all of the light goes away.
It seems that Dig Ventures weren’t the only ones promoting groundbreaking innovation last week.
The range of wavelengths between is where gas molecules typically have their strongest absorption, but the technology for high-precision measurements in this region has only recently become available.
Paolo De Natale of the Italian National Research Council and the European Laboratory for Non-Linear Spectroscopy (LENS), both in Florence, Italy, and his colleagues, unveiled a new high-sensitivity technique last year called saturated-absorption cavity ring-down spectroscopy (SCAR) .
The method is based on the theory that every living organism contains a small but constant proportion of this radioactive carbon isotope.
When the organism dies the C-14 is no longer replaced and that which remains decays at a constant rate.