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Luminescence Dating, a new method of age determination


Physicists and geoscientists join forces in a Dutch research centre.

Luminescence dating is a new technology for the determination of the age of sediments such as sand. At the Netherlands Centre for Luminescence Dating (NCL), physicists and geoscientists join forces to use and improve this new method. The foundation of the NCL will be celebrated on Thursday 20th of March in the form of an opening symposium in the auditorium of the TNO-NITG building in Utrecht. TU Delft will act as secretary of the NCL.

Age determination of sediments is an essential tool for scientists to be able to reconstruct the landscapes of the past and to be able to determine what processes took place at that time. Moreover, this information can provide insights into the future of the landscape.

In luminescence dating, a sediment sample is exposed to heat or light of a certain wavelength. The radiation energy absorbed by the particles since burial is released in the form of light. The intensity of this luminescence signal is a measure for the age of the sediment particles.

This new method compliments the often-used carbon dating method (C14 method), which has a more limited age range. “With luminescence dating, one can research a larger time period,” says Dr. Jakob Wallinga, NCL director. “For example, the period of the beginning of the last ice age, about 100 000 years ago. With the C14-method, 40 000 years is the maximum period length.”

At the NCL, physicists from the University of Groningen and TU Delft join forces with geoscientists from TNO-NITG, the University of Utrecht, the University of Amsterdam and the ‘Vrije Universiteit’ Amsterdam. The main goals of the centre are to the make high-quality luminescence dating available for Dutch research and to develop new luminescence-dating technologies.

In the first part of the opening symposium, scientists from the Netherlands and abroad will discuss the latest developments and applications regarding luminescence dating. In the second part, speakers from TNO-NITG, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts Sciences (KNAW) and the Interfacultary Reactor Institute (IRI - TU Delft), will discuss their specific interests in the NCL. The symposium will be closed with the official signing of the ‘Agreement for co-operation concerning the Netherlands Centre for Luminescence Dating.’

Maarten van der Sanden | alfa
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