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In mass analysis, a magnetic field is applied to these moving charged particles, which causes the particles to deflect from the path they are traveling.If the charged particles have the same velocity but different masses, as in the case of the carbon isotopes, the heavier particles are deflected least.At this stage, molecules that may be present are eliminated because they cannot exist in this triple charged state.The carbon atoms with triple positive charge further accelerate away from the positive terminal and pass through another set of focusing devices where mass analysis occurs.Accelerator mass spectrometers need only as little as 20 milligrams and as high as 500 milligrams for certain samples whereas conventional methods need at least 10 grams in samples like wood and charcoal and as much as 100 grams in bones and sediments.Accelerator mass spectrometers typically need sample sizes lesser than conventional methods by a factor of 1,000. Hence, because of its ability to analyze samples even in minute amounts, accelerator mass spectrometry is the method of choice for archaeologists with small artifacts and those who cannot destroy very expensive or rare materials.Due to the sensitivity of accelerator mass spectrometers, carbon dating small particles like blood particles, a grain, or a seed have been made possible.
This is done by conversion to carbon dioxide with subsequent graphitization in the presence of a metal catalyst.
There are two techniques in measuring radiocarbon in samples—through radiometric dating and by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS).
The two techniques are used primarily in determining carbon 14 content of archaeological artifacts and geological samples.
Mass spectrometers detect atoms of specific elements according to their atomic weights.
They, however, do not have the sensitivity to distinguish atomic isobars (atoms of different elements that have the same atomic weight, such as in the case of carbon 14 and nitrogen 14—the most common isotope of nitrogen).
At this stage, other negatively charged atoms are unstable and cannot reach the detector.