Evolution and Multidisciplinary Frontiers of C-14 Aerosol Science
Lloyd A. Currie
A review is given of some critical events in the development of radiocarbon aerosol science, and the profound influence of radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) on its current applications and future prospects. The birth of this discipline occurred shortly after the initial development of 14C dating. Unlike dating, which is founded on the continual decay of 14C and the resulting full range of 14C/12C ratios in once-living matter, 14C applications to atmospheric aerosol research relate primarily to the determination of mixing ratios of fossil and biomass components. Such determinations have come to have major importance in work ranging from the resolution of woodburning and motor vehicle components of urban particulate pollution, to the apportionment of radiation-forcing (black) particulate carbon from natural wildfires and anthropogenic regional plumes. The development of this area has paralleled that of AMS itself, with the one or the other alternately serving as the driving force. The remarkable million-fold improvement in sensitivity made possible by AMS has become critical in meeting rapidly emerging societal concerns with the origins and effects of individual carbonaceous species on health and climate.