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The ions produced are negative which prevents the confusion of ions). As they travel to the terminal (which is at about 2MV), they are accelerated so much that when they collide with the gas molecules in the central `stripper canal'.
Measurement of the radioactivity of the sample works very well if the sample is large, but in 9 months less than 0.01% of the radiocarbon ions will decay, so in a reasonable measurement time (typically a few weeks) only a very small proportion of the radiocarbon atoms are detected by this method.
In common with other kinds of mass spectrometry, AMS is performed by converting the atoms in the sample into a beam of fast moving ions (charged atoms).
The mass of these ions is then measured by the application of magnetic and electric fields.
For this reason, the calibration curves for radiocarbon have usually been measured using counters. Many of these perform radiocarbon measurements and some of them will undertake sample pre-treatment.
Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.