These slowly decay over time and the ionizing radiation they produce is absorbed by mineral grains in the sediments such as quartz and potassium feldspar. The radiation causes charge to remain within the grains in structurally unstable "electron traps". The trapped charge accumulates over time at a rate determined by the amount of background radiation at the location where the sample was buried.
Stimulating these mineral grains using either light blue or green for OSL; infrared for IRSL or heat for TL causes a luminescence signal to be emitted as the stored unstable electron energy is released, the intensity of which varies depending on the amount of radiation absorbed during burial and specific properties of the mineral. Most luminescence dating methods rely on the assumption that the mineral grains were sufficiently "bleached" at the time of the event being dated.
Quartz OSL ages can be determined typically from to , years BP, and can be reliable when suitable methods are used and proper checks are done. Boyd, and Donald F. Saunders, who thought the thermoluminescence response of pottery shards could date the last incidence of heating.
Ioannis Liritzis , the initiator of ancient buildings luminescence dating, has shown this in several cases of various monuments. The dose rate is usually in the range 0. The total absorbed radiation dose is determined by exciting, with light, specific minerals usually quartz or potassium feldspar extracted from the sample, and measuring the amount of light emitted as a result. The photons of the emitted light must have higher energies than the excitation photons in order to avoid measurement of ordinary photoluminescence.
A sample in which the mineral grains have all been exposed to sufficient daylight seconds for quartz; hundreds of seconds for potassium feldspar can be said to be of zero age; when excited it will not emit any such photons.
The older the sample is, the more light it emits, up to a saturation limit. Minerals[ edit ] The minerals that are measured are usually either quartz or potassium feldspar sand-sized grains, or unseparated silt-sized grains.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using each. For quartz, blue or green excitation frequencies are normally used and the near ultra-violet emission is measured. For potassium feldspar or silt-sized grains, near infrared excitation IRSL is normally used and violet emissions are measured. Comparison to radiocarbon dating[ edit ] Unlike carbon dating , luminescence dating methods do not require a contemporary organic component of the sediment to be dated; just quartz, potassium feldspar, or certain other mineral grains that have been fully bleached during the event being dated.
In a study of the chronology of arid-zone lacustrine sediments from Lake Ulaan in southern Mongolia , Lee et al. Westerly winds delivered an influx of 14 C-deficient carbon from adjacent soils and Paleozoic carbonate rocks, a process that is also active today. This reworked carbon changed the measured isotopic ratios, giving a false older age. However, the wind-blown origin of these sediments were ideal for OSL dating, as most of the grains would have been completely bleached by sunlight exposure during transport and burial.