Carbon Dating

Notes i've made from various resources, not necessarily my own work 

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  • Created by: ImiT
  • Created on: 29-09-12 21:03
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Carbon is a naturally occuring element, is present in our
atmosphere and has 3 isotopes. Made up of 6 protons
and 6 neutrons, Carbon12 is the most abundant of these isotopes and accounts for
98.93 % of the Carbon on earth. The other 1.07% of Carbon on Earth is made up of
Carbon 13 and Carbon 14. Carbon 14 unlike Carbon 13 and Carbon 12, is unstable.
Its nucleus breaks down slowly with a halflife of 5700 years releasing beta
radiation to form Nitrogen 14.
Carbon is in every living object and is a vital element for life. Every living thing is
constantly taking in carbon, a small amount of this carbon is carbon 14, since
living organisms are constantly exchanging carbon with the atmosphere, the ratio
of carbon 12 to carbon 14 is close to that of the atmosphere. When an organism
evetually dies, the organism no longer exchanges carbon with the atmosphere and,
due to the decay of carbon 14 and the constant of carbon 12, the ratio of carbon 14
to carbon12 eventually decreases over time as carbon 14 decays into nitrogen 14.
Scientists can measure how old an artifact is by measuring the ratio of the amount
of carbon 14 to carbon 12 it has. Scientists burn a small piece to convert it into
carbon dioxide gas, radiation counters are used to detect the electrons given off
during the beta decay of carbon 14. The ratio of the amount of carbon 14 to carbon
12 is compared to that off a living thing to determine how much radiation has
happened and thus dating the artifact.

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