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After pretreatment, samples for radiocarbon dating are prepared for use in an accelerator mass spectrometer by converting them into a solid graphite form.This is done by conversion to carbon dioxide with subsequent graphitization in the presence of a metal catalyst.At this stage, molecules that may be present are eliminated because they cannot exist in this triple charged state.The carbon atoms with triple positive charge further accelerate away from the positive terminal and pass through another set of focusing devices where mass analysis occurs.
At the end of an AMS run, data gathered is not only the number of carbon 14 atoms in the sample but also the quantity of carbon 12 and carbon 13.
There are two techniques in measuring radiocarbon in samples—through radiometric dating and by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS).
The two techniques are used primarily in determining carbon 14 content of archaeological artifacts and geological samples.
At this stage, other negatively charged atoms are unstable and cannot reach the detector.
The negatively charged carbon atoms, however, move on to the stripper (a gas or a metal foil) where they lose the electrons and emerge as the triple, positively charged carbon atoms.
Burning the samples to convert them into graphite, however, also introduces other elements into the sample like nitrogen 14.