Scientific Director(s): 
Douglas Kennett, Department Head and Professor of Anthropology
Kate Freeman, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences
Land and Water Research Building, 100 Hastings Rd. University Park, PA 16802

Description: The Penn State Radiocarbon 14C laboratory is dedicated to providing radiocarbon measurements on carbon-bearing materials spanning the last 45,000 years. The facility operates a modified National Electrostatics Corporation 500kV 1.5SDH-1 Compact Accelerator Mass Spectrometer optimized with a second einzel lens and solid ion source capable of routinely generating 12C beam currents in the range of 120-150 mA on small (0.3-0.7 mg C) samples, roughly twice the current of similar low energy AMS systems available to researchers. This allows for high precision measurements of small individual samples and reduces the need for bulk or mixed materials to generate sufficient carbon for measurements. Thus, changes in 14C can be measured in incremental growth samples, such as tree rings, marine shells, and speleothems, or in short-lived samples such as seeds, leaves, hair and other biologicals tissues.

The AMS facility at Penn State is supported by a state-of-the-art sample preparation laboratory capable of processing a variety of materials including wood, charcoal, pollen, marine and terrestrial shell, speleothems, hair, teeth, and bone collagen both by ultrafiltration and amino acid hydrolysis (XAD). Samples are pretreated and converted to graphite routinely running samples of ~0.7 mg of carbon, which allows for direct 14C measurement on small samples such as individual seeds, incremental growth in wood and shell, and poorly preserved bone collagen. Typical precision is better than 30/00 for Holocene-age samples. Our research emphasizes human-earth interactions with a special focus on integrating human and environmental histories through the development of high-resolution chronologies. Our aim is to foster the development of interdisciplinary archaeological research and greater articulation with the earth and environmental sciences.  

Radiocarbon Laboratory Rates Per Sample:

Sample Type

Internal Rate ($)

External Academic Rate ($)

External Non-Academic Rate ($)

Required Sample Treatment *





No treatment

Carbon Dioxide





Carbonate Minerals




1, 7

Carbon (ready for combustion)




6, 7

Organic Carbon (requires pre-processing)




2, 6, 7

Bone for Ultrafiltration (incl. EA-IRMS)




2, 3, 4, 6, 7

Bone for Amino Acid Hydrolysis (incl. EA-IRMS)




2, 3, 5, 6, 7

* Required Sample Treatment: (1) Cleaning and hydrolysis; (2) Cleaning and ABA demineralization;

(3) Gelatinization (4) Ultrafiltration; (5) XAD purification; (6) Combustion; (7) Conversion to graphite.

NOTE: Rates per sample listed above include all required sample treatment

Radiocarbon Laboratory Staff: Our staff has extensive experience using radiocarbon in diverse fields including archaeology, paleontology, paleoecology, and climate reconstruction; collaborating on interdisciplinary projects with results published in Science, Nature Geoscience, PNAS, Quaternary Science REviews and Wuaternary Research, among others. Our interdisciplinary focus allows us to help researchers in developing research designs, sampling strategies, and analysis of radiocarbon data at every stage of their projects from conception to conclusion.

Sample Submission:

To submit samples to the Radiocarbon Laboratory please complete an AMS Sample Analysis Request Form (see below). 



Instruments in this Facility