Do attenuation coefficients based on luminescence bleaching fronts reflect true light attenuation in rocks?

Furong Cui, Myungho Kook, Andrew Sean Murray, Jintang Qin, Jinfeng Liu*, Mayank Jain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The emerging technique of rock surface luminescence dating employs a double-exponential fitting dating model based on the Bouguer-Lambert law. The accuracy of exposure age determination is sensitive to the light attenuation coefficient, μ, which is usually derived from fitting the luminescence profile as a function of depth into the rock. Alternatively, μ might be determined by direct measurement using a spectrophotometer. However, their directly measured values of μ were significantly larger than those estimated from field luminescence bleaching data. Here, we aim to confirm these previous results by measuring the luminescence-depth profiles of both IRSL and IRPL signals from granite rock exposed to different light sources, including sunlight, SOL2 and IR LEDs under controlled conditions. We also measured monochromatic light (blue LED: (470 ± 30) nm, green LED: (520 ± 30) nm, and infrared LED: (850 ± 30) nm) attenuation in granite rock slices of varying thickness (0.62–2.60 mm) using a high-sensitivity photodiode. Finally, we use a camera-based measurement system and a Risø Luminescence Imager to investigate spatial variation in transmitted light as a function of slice thickness. The spatial correlation between direct light transmission and luminescence emission is then investigated, to investigate the underlying reasons for the difference between direct measurement and luminescence-based estimates of μ. We find that light attenuation through a granite rock slice is very heterogeneous; most light penetrates through localized low attenuation light paths corresponding to transmission through the most transparent grains, presumably quartz. The light penetration and escape into the surrounding matrix are assumed to be influenced by the surface area of quartz grains. As a result, transmissive light paths result in a significant area of feldspar grains at depth in the slice being exposed to more light than might be expected from average attenuation measurement. When the incident light predominantly travels through feldspar minerals, simultaneously stimulating luminescence from within any potassium feldspar (K-feldspar), the attenuation coefficients derived from the luminescence-depth profiles tend to be smaller than the average of 1.18 ± 0.07 (n = 79) irrespective of the kinetic model used for fitting. Thus, luminescence-based attenuation coefficient estimates appear to be affected by the distribution of light attenuation across and within the rock slice, making such estimates preferable to directly measured (average) estimates of light attenuation coefficients. These insights are important for our understanding of the significance of light attenuation coefficients in rock samples; they contribute to the reassessment of parameters and measurement methods in dating models and so to improvements in accuracy of rock surface luminescence dating techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107129
JournalRadiation Measurements
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Direct light transmission
  • Luminescence-depth profile
  • Optical attenuation coefficient


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