How carbon dating works chemically

Atmospheric carbon-14 rapidly reacts with oxygen in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the carbon cycle.Plants take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and the carbon-14 makes its way up the food chain and into all living organisms.You might remember that it was mentioned earlier that the amount of carbon-14 in living things is the same as the atmosphere.

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The technique used is called carbon dating, and in this lesson we will learn what this is and how it is used. Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, is a method used to date materials that once exchanged carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. In the late 1940s, an American physical chemist named Willard Libby first developed a method to measure radioactivity of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope.

After viewing the video on carbon dating, use your newfound knowledge to: Did you know…

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The half-life is the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay.

For example, if you start off with 1000 radioactive nuclei with a half-life of 10 days, you would have 500 left after 10 days; you would have 250 left after 20 days (2 half-lives); and so on.

Radioactive carbon-14 is continually formed in the atmosphere by the bombardment of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen-14 atoms.

After it forms, carbon-14 naturally decomposes, with a half-life of 5,730 years, through beta-particle decay.

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