Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 368-372

Electron Spin Resonance Dating (ESR)

  • Gerhard SchellmannAffiliated withDepartment of Physical Geography & Landscape Studies, University of Bamberg Email author 
  • , Ulrich RadtkeAffiliated withUniversity of Duisburg-Essen Email author 
  • , Helmut BrücknerAffiliated withFaculty of Geography, Institute of Geography University of Marburg Email author 


The electron spin resonance (ESR) dating method is one of several radiation exposure methods based on radiation dosimetry such as thermoluminescence (TL), optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), and radioluminescence (RL). All these methods use the phenomenon of common minerals acting as natural dosimeters. The radiation (natural radioactivity and cosmic rays) causes charge (electrons, free radicals) which is trapped at defects in the crystal lattice of a wide range of minerals such as aragonite, calcite, and quartz. Here, we will focus on dating aragonite coral samples. The trapped charges from paramagnetic centers can be detected by the rise of a characteristic ESR signal. The amount of trapped charge accumulation (paleodose, DE) increases with time and can be quantified by the ESR measurement. An ESR age is calculated by dividing the accumulated paleodose (DE) by the dose rate of the natural radiation (D') (Figure 1).
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