Synopsis

Radiocarbon dating of inorganic carbon - such as shells, corals, speleothems, and carbonates - requires procedures to extract carbon for analysis on an accelerator mass spectrometer. Dating these types of samples can help answer fundamental questions about the Earth System and archeology including timing of sea level rise, climatic change, and human activity and migrations. This project will investigate and compare two methods for dating of inorganic carbon. Carbon dioxide is extracted via acid hydrolysis and then 1) graphitised to create a solid graphite target, or 2) the carbon dioxide is directly injected into the accelerator mass spectrometer via a Gas Ion Source. The reliability and accuracy of these two methods will be compared, for different sample types and sample sizes. This honours project will be undertaken in our state-of-the-art laboratory [interactive tour]. No experience necessary, but some interest in chemistry is useful.

Aims

Two methods will be compared to provide methodological recommendations for the radiocarbon dating of inorganic carbon remains.

Student benefits

Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, analyse and interpret data, and how to write a scientific paper. You will also have the opportunity to learn each step of the radiocarbon process, including sampling, pretreating and graphitisation. You will also be integrated within the CHRONOS 14Carbon-Cycle Facility as well as the Earth and Sustainability Science Research Centre, with opportunities for training and career development.

Please email Zoë (z.thomas@unsw.edu.au) for more details!

Get involved

To learn more about this project, contact Dr Zoë Thomas

E: z.thomas@unsw.edu.au