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Energy absorbed from ionizing radiation frees electrons to move through the crystal lattice, some of which are trapped at imperfections in the crystal lattice.Later, heating releases the trapped electrons, producing light.A sample of the earth also needs to be collected so environmental radiation can be tested.The wetness of the soil and the sample should also be recorded.Measuring the intensity of the luminescence can determine how much time has passed since the last time the object was heated.The light is proportional to the amount of radiation absorbed since the material was last heated.The TL operator generally takes samples for dating from the bottom, avoiding damage to the image of the artwork.

The intensity of the thermoluminescence light is proportional to the time that has passed from the last clock resetting event, which for ceramics correspond to when it was baked.For instance, it is possible to date the wood support of a panel as well as canvas.The three most important dating techniques which are useful for the analysis of works of art are: Thermoluminescence (TL), Dendrochronology (DC), and Carbon 14 (C15). It dates items between the years 300-10,000 BP (before present).Natural radioactivity causes latent thermoluminescence to build up so the older an object is, the more light is produced.Therefore, thermoluminescence dating is actually determining the last time a crystal was heated and electrons were released.

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