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An accelerator mass spectrometer measures the amounts of different isotopes within a sample.
For carbon dating, the process starts in an ionizing chamber, where the atoms within a sample of pure carbon are given a negative charge.
After thorough cleaning, a small amount of the material is vacuum-sealed in a quartz tube, which is then heated to a high temperature to convert the material to carbon dioxide, water, and nitrous oxides.
Kennett currently directs the Human Paleoecology and Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology, where materials are prepared for carbon-14 analysis.
"Even though there are carbon-14 facilities around the world, science is still under-served," says Freeman.
"The new facility is an exciting addition both for Penn State and for the larger scientific community.
For scientists whose test material is rare, valuable, or extremely hard to collect, that's important.