Radiocarbon Sample Preparation

A quartz tube containing a solid sample being sealed under vacuum in the radiocarbon prep lab

The Radiocarbon Prep Laboratory at Penn State includes both dry­ and wet-lab areas for sample storage and preparation with standard laboratory equipment including:

    • Fume hood
    • Barnstead NanoPure water purifier
    • Drying oven
    • Freezer
    • Freeze-dry lyophilizer
    • Balances

The Radiocarbon Prep Lab extracts and purifies carbon-containing samples from a wide variety of sample types including charcoal, carbonates, bone, and soil. More information about how to send us samples, including a complete list of accepted sample types is available.

Purified samples are then sealed on a vacuum line, combusted using a Barnstead programmable muffle furnace, and graphitized: combusted CO2 is converted to graphite via hydrogen reduction onto a Fe catalyst.

The combustion and graphitization lines are made with Swagelok Ultra-Torr fittings on stainless steel drawn by oil-free Pfeiffer turbo pumps and have been modeled on lines in use at KCCAMS at the University of California, Irvine. The lab has been swiped for the presence of 14C tracer and maintains constant quality controls on radiocarbon processing with KCCAMS through use of international and internal known-age lab standards (e.g., OX-1, OX2, Prophet River Wood, Beaufort Whale, FIRI secondaries).

Once graphitization is complete, AMS 14C measurements are made through the Radiocarbon Laboratory.


211 Energy and the Environment Laboratory
Penn State University
University Park, PA, 16802