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Geochronology

Physical Geography Division

Department of Geography

University of Zurich - Irchel

Winterthurerstr. 190 

CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland

 

tel.: +41-44-635 51 21

fax.: +41-44-635 68 41

                       Radiocarbon Laboratory

 

       Prof. Markus Egli                                                                     Tel. +44 (0)44 635 5184
       Ivan Woodhatch                                                                       Fax +44 (0)44 635 6841

 

The principles (simplified) behind this type of dating are the following: there are three isotopes of carbon, 12C, 13C and 14C (radiocarbon). 12C and 13C are stable isotopes, 14C is radioactive and thus, unstable. It is produced in the upper atmosphere through the collision of cosmic rays with nitrogen atoms (14N). 14C becomes part of the global carbon cycle and is distributed among the various reservoirs, i.e. land, oceans, lakes, etc. 14C is assimilated by plants during photosynthesis at an almost fixed ratio to 13C and 12C. Once an organism dies it becomes isolated from the 14C source. The "14C clock" now starts because of radioactive decay and the consequent changes in ratio of 14C to 13C and 12C. This change in ratio over time can be used to measure the age of organic samples. Measurable samples have ages of between 150 and 50,000 years old.

Samples

Plant macrofossils, charcoal, wood, peat, seeds, cloth, paper, leather, soil, bone and ivory make up the palette of sample types that we deal although basically, if it's organic it can be dated. In addition, shales (carbonates), lime mortar and some secondary carbonates in sediments and soils may be suitable for dating.

General information

The sample price is CHF 700.- for scientific institutions. It reduces to CHF 630.- if more than 10 samples are submitted within one year and to CHF 560.- if more than 20 samples are submitted within one year. Samples from within Switzerland are subject to VAT. The price for private people and companies is CHF 900.- but reduces to CHF 810.- / 720.- if more than 10 / 20 samples are submitted within one year. Our usual turnaround time is from 3 to 8 weeks (excluding any major accelerator maintenance).

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