How Radiocarbon Dating Is Done -

How Radiocarbon Dating Is Done

how radiocarbon dating is done

Best Answer: Here's some experts from an awesome radicarbon that I found. It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and how radiocarbon dating is done fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities. Cosmic rays enter the earth's atmosphere in large numbers every day. For example, every person is hit by about half a million cosmic rays every hour.

How is carbon dating done? | Yahoo Answers

Carbon is a stable isotope, meaning its amount in any material remains the same year-after-year, century-after-century.

Libby's groundbreaking radiocarbon dating technique instead looked at a much more rare isotope of carbon: Unlike Carbon, this isotope of carbon is unstable, and its atoms decay into an isotope of nitrogen over a period of thousands of years.

New Carbon is produced at a steady rate in Earth's upper atmosphere, however, as the Sun's rays strike nitrogen atoms. Radiocarbon dating exploits this contrast between a stable and unstable carbon isotope. During its lifetime, a plant is constantly taking in carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Animals, in turn, consume this carbon when they eat plants, and the carbon spreads through the food cycle.

This carbon comprises a steady ratio of Carbon and Carbon When these plants and animals die, they cease taking in carbon. From that point forward, the amount of Carbon in materials left over from the plant or animal will decrease over time, while the amount of Carbon will remain unchanged. To radiocarbon date an organic material, a scientist can measure the ratio of remaining Carbon to the unchanged Carbon to see how long it has been since the material's source died.

In , the American chemist Bertram Boltwood — proposed that rocks containing radioactive uranium could be dated by measuring the amount of lead in the sample. This was because uranium, as it underwent radioactive decay , would transmute into lead over a long span of time. Thus, the greater the amount of lead, the older the rock. Boltwood used this method, called radioactive dating , to obtain a very accurate measurement of the age of Earth.

While the uranium-lead dating method was limited being only applicable to samples containing uranium , it was proved to scientists that radioactive dating was both possible and reliable. The first method for dating organic objects such as the remains of plants and animals was developed by another American chemist, Willard Libby — He became intrigued by carbon—14, a radioactive isotope of carbon.

Carbon has isotopes with atomic weights between 9 and The most abundant isotope in nature is carbon—12, followed in abundance by carbon— Among the less abundant isotopes is carbon—14, which is produced in small quantities in the earth 's atmosphere through interactions involving cosmic rays. This means that given a statistically large sample of carbon 14, we know that if we sit it in a box, go away, and come back in years, half of it will still be carbon 14, and the other half will have decayed.

Or in other words, if we have a box, and we don't know how old it is but we know it started with carbon 14 atoms, and we open it and find only 50 carbon 14 atoms and some other stuff, we could say, 'Aha! It must be 1 carbon 14 half-life or years old. So in the real world, looking at a sample like say a bone dug up by an archaeologist, how do we know how much carbon 14 we started with?

That's actually kind of cool. It's a semi-long story, so bear with me. In the atmosphere, cosmic rays smash into normal carbon 12 atoms in atmospheric carbon dioxide , and create carbon 14 isotopes. This process is constantly occurring, and has been for a very long time, so there is a fairly constant ratio of carbon 14 atoms to carbon 12 atoms in the atmosphere.

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