Thermoluminescence (TL) dating of sediments depends upon the acquisition and long term stable storage of TL energy by crystalline minerals contained within a sedimentary unit. This energy is stored in the form of trapped electrons and quartz sand is the most commonly used mineral employed in the dating process. Prior to the final depositional episode it is necessary that any previously acquired TL is removed by exposure to sunlight. After burial the TL begins to build up again at a rate dependent upon the radiation flux delivered by long-lived isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium. The presence of rubidium and cosmic radiation generally play a lesser but contributory roll, and the total radiation dose delivered to the TL phosphor is modified by the presence of water. The period since deposition is therefore measured by determining the total amount of stored TL energy, the palaeodose (P), and the rate at which this energy is acquired, the annual radiation dose (ARD).
GeoQuest supports research undertaken in the Thermoluminescence Laboratory. These facilities are managed by David M. Price. More information regarding thermoluminescence dating can be accessed at the School of Earth and Environmental Science.