Radiocarbon dating is used to measure the age of fossils

To measure the amount of radiocarbon left in a artifact, scientists burn a small piece to convert it into carbon dioxide gas.

Radiation counters are used to detect the electrons given off by decaying Carbon-14 as it turns into nitrogen.

In order to date the artifact, the amount of Carbon-14 is compared to the amount of Carbon-12 (the stable form of carbon) to determine how much radiocarbon has decayed.

The ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 is the same in all living things.

When these energetic neutrons collide with a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom it turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons).

Since Nitrogen gas makes up about 78 percent of the Earth's air, by volume, a considerable amount of Carbon-14 is produced.

By measuring the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of the artifact.

Some examples of the types of material that radiocarbon can determine the ages of are wood, charcoal, marine and freshwater shell, bone and antler, and peat and organic-bearing sediments.

Radiocarbon dating is a method of estimating the age of organic material.

It was developed right after World War II by Willard F.

The ratio of normal carbon (carbon-12) to carbon-14 in the air and in all living things at any given time is nearly constant.

Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14.

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