Carbon Dating Chemistry Tutorial
Radiocarbon dating is a method of estimating the age of organic material. The ratio of normal carbon (carbon) to carbon in the air and in all living things. The stable form of carbon is carbon 12 and the radioactive isotope carbon 14 decays over time We can use a formula for carbon 14 dating to find the answer. Armed with the equation below, archaeologists use these atoms to pinpoint The atmospheric ratio of carbon to regular carbon remains.
If it doesn't gain an electron, it's just a hydrogen ion, a positive ion, either way, or a hydrogen nucleus. But this process-- and once again, it's not a typical process, but it happens every now and then-- this is how carbon forms. So this right here is carbon You can essentially view it as a nitrogen where one of the protons is replaced with a neutron.
And what's interesting about this is this is constantly being formed in our atmosphere, not in huge quantities, but in reasonable quantities. So let me write this down.
Radiocarbon dating - Wikipedia
And let me be very clear. Let's look at the periodic table over here. So carbon by definition has six protons, but the typical isotope, the most common isotope of carbon is carbon So carbon is the most common. So most of the carbon in your body is carbon But what's interesting is that a small fraction of carbon forms, and then this carbon can then also combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.
And then that carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the rest of the atmosphere, into our oceans.
It can be fixed by plants. When people talk about carbon fixation, they're really talking about using mainly light energy from the sun to take gaseous carbon and turn it into actual kind of organic tissue.
And so this carbon, it's constantly being formed. It makes its way into oceans-- it's already in the air, but it completely mixes through the whole atmosphere-- and the air. And then it makes its way into plants. And plants are really just made out of that fixed carbon, that carbon that was taken in gaseous form and put into, I guess you could say, into kind of a solid form, put it into a living form.
That's what wood pretty much is. It gets put into plants, and then it gets put into the things that eat the plants. So that could be us. Now why is this even interesting?
I've just explained a mechanism where some of our body, even though carbon is the most common isotope, some of our body, while we're living, gets made up of this carbon thing. Well, the interesting thing is the only time you can take in this carbon is while you're alive, while you're eating new things. Because as soon as you die and you get buried under the ground, there's no way for the carbon to become part of your tissue anymore because you're not eating anything with new carbon And what's interesting here is once you die, you're not going to get any new carbon And that carbon that you did have at you're death is going to decay via beta decay-- and we learned about this-- back into nitrogen So kind of this process reverses.
So it'll decay back into nitrogen, and in beta decay you emit an electron and an electron anti-neutrino. I won't go into the details of that. But essentially what you have happening here is you have one of the neutrons is turning into a proton and emitting this stuff in the process. Now why is this interesting?
So I just said while you're living you have kind of straight-up carbon And carbon is constantly doing this decay thing. But what's interesting is as soon as you die and you're not ingesting anymore plants, or breathing from the atmosphere if you are a plant, or fixing from the atmosphere. And this even applies to plants. Once a plant dies, it's no longer taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into new tissue.
The carbon in that tissue gets frozen. And this carbon does this decay at a specific rate.
And then you can use that rate to actually determine how long ago that thing must've died. So the rate at which this happens, so the rate of carbon decay, is essentially half disappears, half gone, in roughly 5, years. And this is actually called a half life. And we talk about in other videos. This is called a half life. And I want to be clear here. You don't know which half of it's gone. It's a probabilistic thing. You can't just say all the carbon's on the left are going to decay and all the carbon's on the right aren't going to decay in that 5, years.
So over the course of 5, years, roughly half of them will have decayed.
Now why is that interesting? Well, if you know that all living things have a certain proportion of carbon in their tissue, as kind of part of what makes them up, and then if you were to find some bone-- let's just say find some bone right here that you dig it up on some type of archaeology dig.How Does Radiocarbon Dating Work? - Instant Egghead #28
Exponential Decay Natasha Glydon Exponential decay is a particular form of a very rapid decrease in some quantity. One specific example of exponential decay is purified kerosene, used for jet fuel. The kerosene is purified by removing pollutants, using a clay filter. If Po is the initial amount of pollutants in the kerosene, then the amount left, P, after n feet of pipe can be represented by the following equation: This means that we need a pipe that is Carbon 14 Dating Archaeologists use the exponential, radioactive decay of carbon 14 to estimate the death dates of organic material.
The stable form of carbon is carbon 12 and the radioactive isotope carbon 14 decays over time into nitrogen 14 and other particles. Carbon is naturally in all living organisms and is replenished in the tissues by eating other organisms or by breathing air that contains carbon.
At any particular time all living organisms have approximately the same ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in their tissues. When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon Experts can compare the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in dead material to the ratio when the organism was alive to estimate the date of its death.
Radiocarbon dating can be used on samples of bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers. The half-life of a radioactive isotope describes the amount of time that it takes half of the isotope in a sample to decay.
Dating a Fossil - Carbon Dating | HowStuffWorks
In the case of radiocarbon dating, the half-life of carbon 14 is 5, years. This half life is a relatively small number, which means that carbon 14 dating is not particularly helpful for very recent deaths and deaths more than 50, years ago.
After 5, years, the amount of carbon 14 left in the body is half of the original amount.