The CAIS specializes in the measurement of radiocarbon (C-14) for three primary purposes:
- Radiocarbon Dating: Determining the age of a carbon-containing material by measuring the C-14 activity in a sample relative to a known standard, and calculating the time since it was last living and in equilibrium with its carbon source.
- Natural Products Authenticity Testing: Distinguishing materials (often food and flavoring products) that are derived botanically (naturally) versus those derived in whole or in part from fossil fuels (synthetically).
- Biobased Products Initiative: Developing a certification program for products that incorporate biological materials ("biobased products").
Measurement Methods: Two methods for radiocarbon measurement are available at the CAIS: Low-Level Liquid Scintillation Counting (LSC) and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS). Using LSC the age of a sample is determined by measuring the amount of radioactive decay in the sample. Using AMS, the age is determined by directly counting the carbon atoms in the sample. More »