• Sample Chemistry for the Oxford High Energy Mass Spectrometer

      Gillespie, Richard; Hedges, Robert E. M. (American Journal of Science, 1983-01-01)
      Chemical pretreatment procedures for the decontamination, extraction, and isolation of organic materials for 14C dating using the Oxford accelerator system are described. Specific details are given for the isolation and chromatographic purification of amino acids from bone and tooth collagen, of lipids from sediments, and of cellulose and glucose from wood, paper, and textiles. A description is also given of the apparatus used for the routine preparation of 1 to 5mg graphite samples on tantalum wire, for use in the accelerator ion source. The high energy mass spectrometer (HEMS) approach to 14C dating allows the use of very small samples in the low milligram range. Sample pretreatment and decontamination procedures can be both more vigorous and more selective than those used by conventional dating laboratories. Specific chemical compounds can be isolated from archaeologic or geologic samples; such compounds may be characteristic of particular source materials and, hence, provide more detailed information than is generally possible using bulk organic samples. The Oxford Radiocarbon Unit has concentrated on three sample types that represent the kind of material we expect to work on initially: bone, lake sediment, and wood.