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Over the years, other secondary radiocarbon standards have been made.Radiocarbon activity of materials in the background is also determined to remove its contribution from results obtained during a sample analysis.The radiocarbon age of a certain sample of unknown age can be determined by measuring its carbon 14 content and comparing the result to the carbon 14 activity in modern and background samples.The principal modern standard used by radiocarbon dating labs was the Oxalic Acid I obtained from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. Around 95% of the radiocarbon activity of Oxalic Acid I is equal to the measured radiocarbon activity of the absolute radiocarbon standard—a wood in 1890 unaffected by fossil fuel effects.An age could be estimated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in the sample and comparing this against an internationally used reference standard.The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.
Plants and animals assimilate carbon 14 from carbon dioxide throughout their lifetimes.When the stocks of Oxalic Acid I were almost fully consumed, another standard was made from a crop of 1977 French beet molasses.The new standard, Oxalic Acid II, was proven to have only a slight difference with Oxalic Acid I in terms of radiocarbon content.This scintillator produces a flash of light when it interacts with a beta particle.
A vial with a sample is passed between two photomultipliers, and only when both devices register the flash of light that a count is made.
Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) is a modern radiocarbon dating method that is considered to be the more efficient way to measure radiocarbon content of a sample.