Rutgers researchers develop LARA, a laser spectrometer that improves carbon measurements

July 8, 2008--As the world begins trading in carbon offsets, the need for accurate measurements of carbon emissions is becoming critically important for fair and exact exchanges. As reported in the July 1 issue of Analytical Chemistry, a new laser-assisted ratio analyzer (LARA) developed by Rutgers University (Newark, NJ) researchers is capable of measuring even slight changes in carbon 14 (C-14), an isotope of carbon, using a high-sensitivity benchtop system.

July 8, 2008--As the world begins trading in carbon offsets, the need for accurate measurements of carbon emissions is becoming critically important for fair and exact exchanges. As reported in the July 1 issue of Analytical Chemistry, a new laser-assisted ratio analyzer (LARA) developed by Rutgers University (Newark, NJ) researchers is capable of measuring even slight changes in carbon 14 (C-14), an isotope of carbon, using a high-sensitivity benchtop system.

LARA was developed by Daniel Murnick, professor of physics at Rutgers, with research associate Ozgur Dogru and graduate student Erhan Ilkmen. By measuring small changes in C-14, it can be better determined how much carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from fossil-fuel burning. Additionally, the technology opens up the possibility of using non-therapeutic micro-doses in drug research processes, along with expanding carbon-dating capabilities.

Currently, measuring such small changes in C-14 requires using an accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS), which is as large as a room, expensive, and requires a sample size of at least milligram. The ultra-sensitive LARA spectrometer developed by Murnick and his team fits on a laboratory bench, is easier to operate, and can measure samples as small as a tenth of a milligram.

"In archeology, the finds are often very small samples and sometimes too small to allow for traditional carbon dating," says Murnick. "Our equipment can eliminate that problem. We also hope to eventually miniaturize the equipment so it can be used on site." Rutgers has applied for a patent for the LARA technology.

For more information, visit news.rutgers.edu/medrel/rutgers-research-las-20080701.

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