Explainer: what’s radiocarbon dating and exactly how does it work?

Explainer: what’s radiocarbon dating and exactly how does it work?


Analysis Officer, Radiocarbon Facility, Australian National University

Disclosure statement

Rachel Wood doesn’t work for, consult, own stocks in or get financing from any organization or organization that could take advantage of this article, and it has disclosed no appropriate affiliations beyond their scholastic visit.


Radiocarbon relationship has transformed our understanding of days gone by 50,000 years. Professor Willard Libby produced the very first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and ended up being later on granted the Nobel Prize for their efforts.

Radiocarbon dating functions comparing the 3 various isotopes of carbon. Isotopes of a specific element have actually the exact same range protons within their nucleus, but various amounts of neutrons. This means they have different masses although they are very similar chemically.

The sum total mass of this isotope is suggested by the numerical superscript. Whilst the lighter isotopes 12 C and 13 C are stable, the isotope that is heaviest 14 C (radiocarbon) is radioactive. This implies its nucleus is really big it is unstable.

With time 14 C decays to nitrogen ( 14 letter). Many 14 C is manufactured in the top environment where neutrons, that are made by cosmic rays, respond with 14 N atoms.

Dating history

Whenever residing things die, muscle isn’t any longer being changed plus the decay that is radioactive of C becomes apparent. Around 55,000 years later on, plenty 14 C has decayed that just what stays can not any longer be calculated.

Radioactive decay may be used being a “clock” since it is unaffected by physical (e.g. Continue reading „Explainer: what’s radiocarbon dating and exactly how does it work?“