Dating range equation
d14C represents the per mille depletion in sample carbon 14 prior to isotopic fractionation correction and is measured by: D14C represents the 'normalized' value of d14C.
'Normalized' means that the activity is scaled in relation to fractionation of the sample, or its delta C13 value.
Much of the information presented in this section is based upon the Stuiver and Polach (1977) paper "Discussion: Reporting of C14 data". 1890 wood was chosen as the radiocarbon standard because it was growing prior to the fossil fuel effects of the industrial revolution.
A copy of this paper may be found in the Radiocarbon Home Page The radiocarbon age of a sample is obtained by measurement of the residual radioactivity. T (National Institute of Standards and Technology; Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA) Oxalic Acid I (C). The activity of 1890 wood is corrected for radioactive decay to 1950.
Later inter-laboratory measurements put the ratio at 1.5081 (Currie and Polach, 1980).
According to Stuiver and Polach (1977), all laboratories should report their results either directly related to NBS Oxalic acid or indirectly using a sub-standard which is related to it.
The terms "%Modern", or "pm C" and D14C are shown related in this diagram along with the Radiocarbon age in years BP (Before 1950 AD).
If the reservoir corrected conventional radiocarbon age calculated is within the past 200 years, it should by convention be termed 'Modern' (Stuiver and Polach, 192).
The Oxalic acid standard which was developed is no longer commercially available. In the early 1980's, a group of 12 laboratories measured the ratios of the two standards.
Ninety-five percent of the activity of Oxalic Acid from the year 1950 is equal to the measured activity of the absolute radiocarbon standard which is 1890 wood.
This is the International Radiocarbon Dating Standard.
Beukens (1994) for instance has stated that this means the limit of the range for his Isotrace laboratory is 60 000 yr which is very similar to the conventional range.
Figure 1: This gif shows the comparison in radioactivity between a sample, or unknown (green area) , a modern standard (dark blue) and a background (small red peaks) derived from beta decay. A radiocarbon measurement, termed a conventional radiocarbon age (or CRA) is obtained using a set of parameters outlined by Stuiver and Polach (1977), in the journal Radiocarbon.