Definition of thermoluminescence dating

The energy released by stimulating the crystals is expressed in light (luminescence).

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This energy is lodged in the imperfect lattices of the mineral's crystals.

Heating these crystals (such as when a pottery vessel is fired or when rocks are heated) empties the stored energy, after which time the mineral begins absorbing energy again.

Luminescence dating (including thermoluminescence and optically stimulated luminescence) is a type of dating methodology that measures the amount of light emitted from energy stored in certain rock types and derived soils to obtain an absolute date for a specific event that occurred in the past.

The method is a direct dating technique, meaning that the amount of energy emitted is a direct result of the event being measured.

The exposure to radioactive elements continues, and the minerals begin again storing free electrons in their structures.

If you can measure the rate of acquisition of the stored energy, you can figure out how long it has been since the exposure happened.Better still, unlike radiocarbon dating, the effect luminescence dating measures increases with time.As a result, there is no upper date limit set by the sensitivity of the method itself, although other factors may limit the method's feasibility.TL dating is a matter of comparing the energy stored in a crystal to what "ought" to be there, thereby coming up with a date-of-last-heated.In the same way, more or less, OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dating measures the last time an object was exposed to sunlight.Materials of geological origin will have absorbed considerable quantities of radiation since their formation, so any human-caused exposure to heat or light will reset the luminescence clock considerably more recently than that since only the energy stored since the event will be recorded.

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