Principles of thermoluminescence dating
Often this luminescence “cycle" occurs repeatedly in many depositional environments with signal acquisition of mineral grains by exposure to ionizing radiation during the burial period and signal resetting (“zeroing") with light exposure concurrent to sediment erosion and transportation. (a) Luminescence is acquired in mineral grains with exposure to ionizing radiation and trapping of electrons.Often mineral grains that are fresh from a bedrock sources have significantly lower luminescence emissions per radiation dose in comparison to grains that have cycled repeatedly. (b) The luminescence for grains is zeroed by exposure to sunlight with erosion and transport.Thus, the population of stored electrons in lattice-charge defects increases with prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation and the resolved luminescence emission increases with time.Exposure of mineral grains to light or heat (at least 300˚C) reduces the luminescence to a low and definable residual level.
There is significant variability in the luminescence properties of quartz and potassium feldspar grains related to crystalline structure, minor and rare-earth impurities, solid-solution relations, number of luminescence cycles (Fig. Thus, because of this inherent variability in dose sensitivity of quartz and feldspar, analytical procedures for dating often need to be tailored for a specific geologic provenance.
Mineral separations are performed by standard techniques using heavy liquids and hydrofluoric acid (HF) to digest non-quartz minerals and etch the outer 10 to 20 µm of quartz grains which are affected alpha radiation.
The purity of the quartz extract is primal for effective dating because a small amount contamination (1%) by potassium feldspar and other minerals can dominate the luminescence emissions.
Many types of sediment receive prolonged ( 1 hr) light exposure with transport and deposition, particularly in eolian, littoral and sublittoral sedimentary environments.
In addition, the inherent residual level is influenced by the susceptibility of the luminescence signal of a specific mineral to solar resetting.
The radioactive decay of 40K releases beta and gamma radiation, whereas the decay in the U and Th series generates mostly alpha particles and some beta and gamma radiation.