It is vital for a radiocarbon laboratory to know the contribution to routine sample activity of non-sample radioactivity.
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Should the activity of the sample be indistinguishable from the background activity at 1 standard deviation, it is released as background.
Samples whose age falls between modern and background and are given finite ages.
The Conventional Radiocarbon Age BP is calculated using the radiocarbon decay equation: Where -8033 represents the mean lifetime of 14C (Stuiver and Polach, 1977).
Aon is the activity in counts per minute of the modern standard, Asn is the equivalent cpm for the sample. A CRA embraces the following recommended conventions: correction for sample isotopic fractionation (delta C13) to a normalized or base value of -25.0 per mille relative to the ratio of C12/C13 in the carbonate standard VPDB (more on fractionation and delta C13); Three further terms are sometimes given with reported radiocarbon dates. All are expressed in per mille notation rather than per cent notation (%).
If a sample age falls after 1950, it is termed greater than Modern, or Where Aabs is the absolute international standard activity, 1/8267 is the lifetime based on the new half life (5730 yr), Y = the year of measurement of the appropriate standard.
This is an expression of the ratio of the net modern activity against the residual normalised activity of the sample, expressed as a percentage and it represents the proportion of radiocarbon atoms in the sample compared to that present in the year 1950 AD.Another standard, Oxalic Acid II was prepared when stocks of HOx 1 began to dwindle. The ratio of the activity of Oxalic acid II to 1 is 1.29330.001 (the weighted mean) (Mann, 1983). There are other secondary radiocarbon standards, the most common is ANU (Australian National University) sucrose.The ratio of the activity of sucrose with 0.95 Ox was first measured by Polach at 1.50070.0052 (Polach, 1976b:122).A time-independent level of C14 activity for the past is assumed in the measurement of a CRA.The activity of this hypothetical level of C14 activity is equal to the activity of the absolute international radiocarbon standard.By measuring the activity of a background sample, the normal radioactivity present while a sample of unknown age is being measured can be accounted for and deducted.