Left - NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride)


The NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride) is responsible for Earth/environmental science applications of radiocarbon dating/analysis. The Facility has been established in East Kilbride, Scotland since 1970, and until recently was known as the NERC Radiocarbon Laboratory. It is one of two nodes of the NERC Radiocarbon Facility, with the other node responsible for science-based archaeological applications of radiocarbon dating being covered by the NERC Radiocarbon Facility (Archaeology) at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, University of Oxford.

The NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride) [NRCF (East Kilbride)] is hosted (along with four other NERC Facilities and the NERC-recognised AMS Facility) by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), and provides UK scientists and international collaborators with radiocarbon measurements, for a range of Earth and environmental science projects. The laboratory has a current capacity for about 1,300 samples annually, including a wide range of sample types. Samples containing 0.5 mg carbon to greater than several grams of carbon are routinely prepared in the laboratory and are analysed by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) using the SUERC AMS Facility.

The NRCF (East Kilbride) was established to meet the need within the UK for radiocarbon analyses in NERC-supported areas of environmental and Earth sciences. Since that time the experimental output and scientific priorities have adapted and developed in response to changes in NERC priorities and the needs of its multi-disciplinary user community. This is reflected in increased analytical capacity, widening areas of scientific collaboration (both UK and internationally) and acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment via grant and capital funding schemes. The laboratory participates in the co-ordination of International Radiocarbon Intercomparison exercises.

We are continually improving existing and developing new techniques for radiocarbon analysis. For example, for many materials (and when the need is justified), we can now analyse samples with as little as 0.1 mg of carbon (i.e. up to 5 times smaller than routine samples). The AMS group has developed the capability for analysing samples to high precision for studies which require precision greater than provided by routine analysis. In recent years we have developed and tested new methods of sampling carbon dioxide for radiocarbon analysis, which have been applied in collaborative projects such as investigations of the age and source of respired CO2, and evasion of CO2 from surface waters.

The NRCF (East Kilbride) has a wide and in-depth experience of the benefits, practicalities and potential pitfalls associated with most areas of 14C science. We have an "open-door" policy for all existing and potential users of the Facility at all stages of their research projects, and collaboration is strongly encouraged.

PDFNERC Radiocarbon Facility Mission Statement

About Radiocarbon dating/analysis

Radiocarbon dating is based on the measurement of residual concentrations of naturally occurring 14C in materials containing organic or inorganic carbon. Current AMS sample preparation methods allow materials of up to about 50,000 years old to be dated. The introduction of significant amounts of 14C into the atmosphere due to nuclear weapons testing (late 1950's to early 1960's) has provided an opportunity to trace the fate and transfer rates of carbon in the environment. Useful information on radiocarbon dating techniques, theories and developments can be found on the Radiocarbon WEB-info site and the Radiocarbon home page (web site for the Radiocarbon Journal).