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Radiocarbon Detection/ Overview

What you can do with radiocarbon

Carbon isotopes are present in every living thing, the ¹²C isotope is stable and is the most present ~99%, ¹³C is approximately 1%,

¹⁴C (radiocarbon) is present in very small concentrations ~10-¹² (1ppt), is produced by cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere, due to its radioactive half-life of 5700 years, after the death of any living thing, radiocarbon works as a natural clock for very long times.
Radiocarbon is a label provided by nature for the biogenic origin of any carbon-containing material.

Radiocarbon is no longer present in biogenic products of fossil origin (like coal, coal products, natural gas, derived gas, crude oil, petroleum) because it has completely decayed.

Radiocarbon can be used to discriminate the fossil fraction in materials and gases.

Finally, being naturally present in animal physiology, radiocarbon it is fully tolerated in metabolic processes, for this reason it can also be used for pharmacology studies.

Radiocarbon-enriched samples are used as radiolabels for the study of metabolic processes in drugs.

Behind C14-SCAR

C14-SCAR is a high-precision, laser-based, table-top ¹⁴CO₂ analyzer, based on a novel spectroscopic technique called Saturated-absorption CAvity Ring-down (SCAR).

Radiocarbon (¹⁴C) is a very elusive atom. Its concentration is about one part per trillion (10-¹²) therefore its measurement is very difficult.

The two most commonly used technologies for radiocarbon measurement are Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) and Liquid Scintillation Counting (LSC).

AMS has excellent sensitivity, requires a smaller carbon mass and shorter measurement times than the former method of liquid scintillation counting (LSC). However, AMS requires huge, expensive and high-maintenance experimental facilities.

LSC is cheap but has poor sensitivity and liquid scintillation cocktails must be disposed of in a special way.

We have developed a laser spectroscopy technique that is sensitive enough to detect radiocarbon dioxide molecules at very low mole fractions with an all-optical setup that is orders of magnitude more compact and less expensive than AMS and much “cleaner” than LSC.

The new approach, named saturated-absorption cavity ring-down (SCAR), makes use of molecular absorption saturation to enhance the sensitivity with respect to conventional cavity ring-down spectroscopy.

By combining SCAR with a couple of quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) emitting narrow-linewidth mid-IR and our state of the art electronics we could achieve an unprecedented limit in trace gas detection, down to a few parts-per-quadrillion
(10-¹⁵) mole fraction.

¹⁴C measurement methods compared

Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy (AMS) detects isotope ratio of ¹²C, ¹³C, ¹⁴C ions. The use has increased, but its economic and energy costs make only ~20 instruments available in Europe.

Liquid Scintillation Counting (LSC) uses β-decay counting, but with insufficient precision for monitoring applications, thus requiring large sample amounts, high isotope doses and difficult measure automation.

SCAR detects absorbed IR photons. It is demonstrated and sold for ¹⁴C quantification for many applications. Qualification for spread use require less sample needs, better modularity and automation.

Measure process explained

The complete process leading to the 14C concentration value involves two main steps:
1. Sample preparation and burning
2. Purification and measurement

1. Sample preparation and burning
C14-SCAR can measure solid, liquid, and gaseous samples of various types, such as plastics, textiles, fuels, ethanol, various gases like carbon dioxide or methane.

The carbon content of the sample must be enough to fill the measurement cell with a 0.7 L net volume at the optimal pressure of 13 mbar.

In order to be measured by the C14-SCAR instrument, any solid or liquid sample must be converted to pure CO2 gas by combustion in an Elemental analyser, it is also possible to directly acquire CO2 gas, for example, by sampling it from the atmosphere.

2. Purification and measurement
After combustion or direct sampling, the gas is almost ready to be injected into the C14-SCAR measuring cell by means of an automated procedure.
The gas produced by the elemental analyser is purified and transferred to the measuring cell.
When the measuring cell has been filled to the correct pressure, the Saturated CAvity Ring-down process begins and measurements are taken.
The analysis result is provided automatically after the measurement.

Typical Measurement Performance

14C-SCAR is a very versatile instrument, it achieves excellent sensitivity at low measurement times, has a very wide dynamic range, about 4 decades, and requires a modest amount of sample to operate.

With measurement times in the order of 120min 14C-SCAR achieves sub-pmc accuracies, making it suitable for e.g. atmospheric monitoring applications or biogenic fraction determination in fuel blends.

Taking advantage of the wide dynamic range 14C-SCAR is able to quickly measure enriched samples in times of the order of a few minutes, enabling it to be particularly useful for ADME measurements (Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism and Excretion) in pharmaceutical applications.

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What you can do with radiocarbon

Carbon isotopes are present in every living thing, the ¹²C isotope is stable and is the most present ~99%, ¹³C is approximately 1%,

¹⁴C (radiocarbon) is present in very small concentrations ~10-¹² (1ppt), is produced by cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere, due to its radioactive half-life of 5700 years, after the death of any living thing, radiocarbon works as a natural clock for very long times.
Radiocarbon is a label provided by nature for the biogenic origin of any carbon-containing material.

Radiocarbon is no longer present in biogenic products of fossil origin (like coal, coal products, natural gas, derived gas, crude oil, petroleum) because it has completely decayed.

Radiocarbon can also be used to discriminate the fossil fraction in materials and gases.

Finally, being naturally present in animal physiology, radiocarbon it is fully tolerated in metabolic processes, for this reason it can also be used for pharmacology studies.

Radiocarbon-enriched samples are used as radiolabels for the study of metabolic processes in drugs.

Behind 14C-SCAR

¹⁴C-SCAR is a high-precision, laser-based, table-top ¹⁴CO₂ analyzer, based on a novel spectroscopic technique called Saturated-absorption CAvity Ring-down (SCAR).

Radiocarbon (¹⁴C) is a very elusive atom. Its concentration is about one part per trillion (10-¹²) therefore its measurement is very difficult.

The two most commonly used technologies for radiocarbon measurement are Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) and Liquid Scintillation Counting (LSC).

AMS has excellent sensitivity, requires a smaller carbon mass and shorter measurement times than the former method of liquid scintillation counting (LSC). However, AMS requires huge, expensive and high-maintenance experimental facilities.

LSC is cheap but has poor sensitivity and liquid scintillation cocktails must be disposed of in a special way.

We have developed a laser spectroscopy technique that is sensitive enough to detect radiocarbon dioxide molecules at very low mole fractions with an all-optical setup that is orders of magnitude more compact and less expensive than AMS and much “cleaner” than LSC.

The new approach, named saturated-absorption cavity ring-down (SCAR), makes use of molecular absorption saturation to enhance the sensitivity with respect to conventional cavity ring-down spectroscopy.

By combining SCAR with a couple of quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) emitting narrow-linewidth mid-IR and our state of the art electronics we could achieve an unprecedented limit in trace gas detection, down to a few parts-per-quadrillion (10-¹⁵) mole fraction.

¹⁴C measurement methods compared

Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy (AMS) detects isotope ratio of ¹²C, ¹³C, ¹⁴C ions. The use has increased, but its economic and energy costs make only ~20 instruments available in Europe.

Liquid Scintillation Counting (LSC) uses β-decay counting, but with insufficient precision for monitoring applications, thus requiring large sample amounts, high isotope doses and difficult measure automation.

SCAR detects absorbed IR photons. It is demonstrated and sold for 14C quantification for many applications. Qualification for spread use require less sample needs, better modularity and automation.

Measure process explained

The 14C-SCAR measurement process is divided into three simple steps:
1. Sample preparation
2. Burning
3. Measurement of 14C concentration

1.Sample Preparation
¹⁴C-SCAR can measure solid, liquid, and gaseous samples of various types, such as plastics, textiles, fuels, ethanol, various gases like carbon dioxide or methane.
The carbon content of the sample must be enough to fill the measurement cell with a 0.7 L net volume at the optimal pressure of 13 mbar.

2.Burning
To be measured by the C14-SCAR instrument, any solid or liquid sample must be converted into pure CO₂ gas by combustion in an Elementar Analyzer, it is of course possible to measure CO₂ gas directly (e.g. sampled from the atmosphere).

3.Measure
After burning or direct sampling, the gas is ready to be injected into the C14-SCAR measurement cell via an automated procedure.
Once the transfer of the gas to is completed, the measurement routine is started.
When the measuring cell has been filled to the correct pressure, the Cavity Ring Down process begins and measurements are taken.
The analysis result is provided automatically after the measurement.

Typical Measurement Performance

¹⁴C-SCAR is a very versatile instrument, it achieves excellent sensitivity at low measurement times, has a very wide dynamic range, about 4 decades, and requires a modest amount of sample to operate.

With measurement times in the order of 120min ¹⁴C-SCAR achieves sub-pmc accuracies, making it suitable for e.g. atmospheric monitoring applications or biogenic fraction determination in fuel blends.

Taking advantage of the wide dynamic range ¹⁴C-SCAR is able to quickly measure enriched samples in times of the order of a few minutes, enabling it to be particularly useful for ADME measurements (Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism and Excretion) in pharmaceutical applications.

Our solutions