It gave an account for observations Boyle made about "a diamond that shines in the dark." He noted that it glowed dimly after holding it for a while against a warm part of his body.Until the 1940's when the photomultiplier was used as a sensitive detector of light, thermoluminescence was used only as a geological tool to identify minerals.Instead, the radiation comes from radioactive elements found naturally in the material.Since radioactive elements have predictable half-lives, it is easy to determine the age of the artifact from how much radiation is within the electron traps. First the material had to have in contact with a significant amount of heat at some point during its used period.
TL can even be used in situations where other methods could have failed.
Say there are a number of fossils in a rock bed and perhaps they are too old or too damaged to be dated by other archaeological methods. "AN OVERVIEW OF RED-THERMOLUMINESCENCE (RTL) STUDIES ON HEATED QUARTZ AND RTL APPLICATION TO DOSIMETRY AND DATING." Geochronometria: Journal On Methods & Applications Of Absolute Chronology 30, 9-16. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed December 8, 2013). "RADIOCARBON WIGGLE-MATCH DATING OF BULK SEDIMENTS-- HOW ACCURATE CAN IT BE?
Because sediment is continuous deposited, TL can be used to date the sediment around the artifact and get a close estimation of its age (Mellstrom par 1). Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 4, 2013). "Lattice defects in organic crystals revealed by the direct molecular imaging.
This means that organic material, such as wood or bone cannot be tested.
takes thermoluminescence measurements from quartz grains that have had the outer layer ground away.