Thermoluminescence is the luminescence produced in a solid when its temperature is raised. It arises when free electrons and holes, trapped in a solid as a result of exposure to ionizing radiation, unite and emit photons of light.

The process is made use of in thermoluminescent dating, which assumes that the number of electrons and holes trapped in a sample of pottery is related to the length of time that has elapsed since the pottery was fired. By comparing the luminescence produced by heating a piece of pottery of unknown age with the luminescence produced by heating similar materials of known age, a fairly accurate estimate of the age of an object can be made.

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Subjects: Physics