Sample materials such as sediments and soils contain complex mixtures of different carbon-containing compounds. These bulk samples can be split into individual fractions, based on the temperature of thermal decomposition of their components. When coupled with radiocarbon (14C) measurement of the isolated fractions, this approach offers the advantage of directly investigating the residence time, turnover time, source, or age of the different components within a mixed sample, providing important insights to better understand the cycling of carbon in the environment. Several laboratories have previously reported different approaches to separate radiocarbon samples based on temperature in what is a growing area of interest within the research community. Here, we report the design and operation of a new ramped oxidation facility for separation of sample carbon on the basis of thermal resistance at the NEIF Radiocarbon Laboratory in East Kilbride, UK. Our new instrumentation shares some characteristics with the previously-reported systems applying ramped oxidation and/or ramped pyrolysis for radiocarbon measurement, but also has several differences which we describe and discuss. We also present the results of a thorough program of testing of the new system, which demonstrates both the reproducibility of the thermograms generated during sample combustion, and the reliability of the radiocarbon measurements obtained on individual sample fractions. This is achieved through quantification of the radiocarbon background and analysis of multiple standards of known 14C content during standard operation of the instrumentation.
- ramped oxidation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)