Project Details


Carbon 14 (14C) exists in the biosphere with an abundance of about 1 part per trillion relative to carbon 12, and decays with a half-life of 5730 years thus providing a tag for carbon dating. In addition, compounds labeled with 14C are routinely used to trace metabolism in physiology research. In atmospheric science, small changes in 14C content can monitor how much carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning. Sensitive measurement of 14C now requires the use of large dedicated and expensive particle accelerators. In this project, a new laser based ultra-sensitive 14C detection instrument for routine quantitation of 14C will be developed. The resulting system will be easy to operate and allow the use of extremely small (of order 0.1 mg) samples. Users of the first instruments will come from three broad areas: environmental monitoring, physiology studies, and small sample analysis, all of which require the unique capabilities of the system. The project uses a new ultra-sensitive laser based analytical technique, intracavity optogalvanic spectroscopy (ICOGS), which enables the detection of 14C labeled carbon dioxide. Three major development goals are planned: optimization of the laser system; preparation of sample handling and introduction protocols; and development of calibration and standards methodology and equipment. Two instruments with a common technology will be built- a high sensitivity device for small sample and environmental monitoring and a lower sensitivity device for routine analysis of organic and biological samples labeled with 14C tracers. Successful completion of the project will make available laboratory size, user-friendly instruments for highly sensitive measurements of 14C in biological and environmental samples. It will also greatly expand the range of measurements possible and increase the size of the user community. Because the instrument can accommodate continuous flow of carbon dioxide, real-time atmospheric monitoring is also possible. A major outcome of the instrument development program will be technology transfer to both a broad user community from industry, government and academia; as well as to potential commercial suppliers. Results obtained will be submitted to interdisciplinary scientific journals and at regional and national meetings.
Effective start/end date9/1/098/31/12


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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