Optically stimulated luminescence dating of fluvial deposits: A review

Jakob Wallinga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

352 Citations (Scopus)


Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating allows age determination of sediments deposited during the last glacial-interglacial cycle. This relatively new technique therefore enables chronological frameworks to be established for fluvial deposits that often cannot be dated by other means. The OSL signal of quartz and feldspar minerals is reset by light exposure during fluvial transport, and builds up as a result of ionizing radiation after burial of the minerals. Incomplete resetting of the OSL signal because of inadequate light exposure in the fluvial environment can result in age overestimations, especially for relatively young samples. Methods used for the detection of incomplete resetting, or poor bleaching, are reviewed. It is argued that techniques measuring the OSL signal from small subsamples (aliquots) are most promising for detecting poor bleaching and for obtaining the true age for a sample in which not all grains had their OSL signal completely removed at deposition. Quartz should be the mineral of choice, because it has been shown to yeild the most reliable results and because its OSL signal is more rapidly reset than that of feldspar. Aliquot size should be small, with aliquots ideally consisting of a single grain of quartz for samples in which the majority of grains are poorly bleached. Using single-aliquot dating of coarse-grain quartz, age offsets between zero and a few thousand years have been found for modern fluvial deposits. The validity of single-aliquot quartz OSL dating has been demonstrated by application to known-age samples, but for the older age range (>∼13 ka) further proof of the accuracy of the method is essential. The application of quartz OSL dating to investigations of fluvial deposits opens a new realm of possibilities to be explored, as is highlighted by some examples of geological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-322
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


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