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THERE have been several recent reports of the detection of 14C in modern carbon samples using large van de Graaff accelerators1-3 and cyclotrons4 as mass spectrometers. The attraction of using such systems is the possibility that very small samples (∼5 mg) might be quickly and accurately dated. We have considered the design criteria for a mass spectrometer incorporating a tandem van de Graaff accelerator to be built specifically for carbon dating and in this letter we present data which show that the measurements are possible using much smaller and simpler systems than those discussed previously. © 1978 Nature Publishing Group.

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253 - 255