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From this curve we can calculate the dose that our sample must have received to produce the amount of light that we measured first.
We call this measurement our “equivalent dose”, because it is equivalent to the dose that the sample received in nature.
This is because water attenuates (scatters) the radiation, reducing the total radiation dose that the sample has been exposed to.
In addition to radiation from the surrounding sediment, OSL samples are affected by a cosmic dose rate, which reduces as the amount of sediment the sample is buried under increases.
When these quartz or feldspar minerals are exposed to the ionising radiation emitted by the radioactive isotopes in zircons, electrons within the crystals migrate and become trapped in their crystal structure.
The number of trapped electrons depends on the total amount of radiation that the mineral has been exposed to.
Other important factors that need to be considered when calculating the radiation dose rate are the water content of the sediment and how much sediment is on top of the sample site. OSL works because all sediments have some natural radioactivity, caused by the presence of uranium, thorium and potassium isotopes in heavy minerals such as zircons.