Blank values play an important role in analytical chemistry, as they serve to determine the limit of detection and contribute to estimations of uncertainty. In radiocarbon analysis, blank material (bone, wood, charcoal etc.) are older than 60,000 years – ensuring most of radiocarbon has decayed to nitrogen – and combusted to create graphite for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry determination. Recent evidence suggests the graphitization process may introduce 15% contamination measured in a radiocarbon blank. In this Honors Project, you will use a range of techniques, including radiocarbon analysis; to determine whether blank values can improve by cleaning, taking additional steps, or using different parts during graphitization. You will learn each step of the radiocarbon process, including sampling, pretreating and graphitisation in our state-of-the-art laboratory [interactive tour].


To reproducibly improve radiocarbon blank estimation and determine limit of detections for wood, bone and charcoal samples.

Student Benefits

Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, analyse and interpret data, and how to write a scientific paper. You will also be integrated within the Chronos 14Carbon-Cycle Facility as well as the Changing Earth Research Centre (formerly PANGEA), with opportunities for training and career development.

Supervisors: Dr Adam Sookdeo and Dr Lorena Becerra Valdivia