The amount of light produced is proportional to the number of trapped electrons that have been freed which is in turn proportional to the radiation dose accumulated.
In order to relate the signal (the thermoluminescence—light produced when the material is heated) to the radiation dose that caused it, it is necessary to calibrate the material with known doses of radiation since the density of traps is highly variable.
Optical dating provides a means of determining burial ages for sediments and the method is based on the increase in number of trapped electrons in mineral.
This is commonly done by measurement of the alpha radioactivity (the uranium and thorium content) and the potassium content (K-40 is a beta and gamma emitter) of the sample material.
An example of this can be seen in Rink and Bartoll, 2005.
Thermoluminescence dating was modified for use as a passive sand migration analysis tool by Keizars, et al., 2008 (Figure 3), demonstrating the direct consequences resulting from the improper replenishment of starving beaches using fine sands, as well as providing a passive method of policing sand replenishment and observing riverine or other sand inputs along shorelines (Figure 4).
Ultraviolet light emitted by the sample is detected for measurement.
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Where there is a dip (a so-called "electron trap"), a free electron may be attracted and trapped.