IPERION HSIntegrating Platforms for the European Research Infrastructure ON Heritage Science

Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL)

Luminescence dating is based on the ability of certain minerals (quartz and feldspar) to accumulate electrical charges within their mineral structure and to release such energy when they are exposed to an external stimulus. According to the type of external stimulus applied, there are different types of luminescence, TL, OSL, IRSL, depending on whether the external source is heated, a visible light source or infrared. The energy accumulated within the minerals is a result of the radioactive decay occurring in the material found in the environment, such as U, Th and K present in the sediment. The energy is continually stored until the minerals are exposed to an external stimulus, such as sunlight, for example, resulting in the release of the energy, thereby resetting the clock to zero. Therefore, this technique can only be employed to date the last event when the material was exposed to sunlight, having been subsequently buried and protected from this light source. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) is a method for measuring doses from ionizing radiation. It dates directly the minerals (quartz and feldspar) forming the sediment.

Fields of application

  • Cultural heritage


  • Natural heritage

    geological units containing archaeological or paleoanthropological material


  • inorganic

    sediments rich in quartz


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The main application of Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating is to establish chronologies for Quaternary sediments. The most common types of luminescence used in palaeontology are those derived from blue or green stimulation (OSL), violet stimulation (VSL) used for quartz grains and infrared stimulation (IRSL) used for measuring feldspar. From the intensity of the signal...

Contact person
Maria Sarrò
OSL equipment for archaeology

Devices: Risø TL-DA-20 reader, 90Sr beta irradiation source, 241Am alpha irradiation source. The two most important application fields of luminescence dating are the determination of the age of ceramic objects or fired inorganic materials on the one hand and the dating of sediments on the other. The method uses the phenomenon that during heating or...