Radiocarbon Dating Essay

1088 words - 5 pages

“Willard Libby (a scientist who won the Nobel Prize inn Chemistry) developed radiocarbon dating as a method to measure radioactivity. Carbon-14 is a weakly radioactive isotope of Carbon; also known as radio carbon. Radiocarbon dating cannot be applied to metals, only to organic and selected inorganic materials. The three principal radiocarbon dating methods are: (1) gas proportional counting, (2) liquid scintillation counting and (3) accelerator mass spectrometry.” (Beta Analytic). Radiocarbon dating is the only scientific method to revolutionize man’s understanding of events that occurred in the past and also in the present. It is used to prove and disprove theories in archaeology and other sciences. (Beta Analytic)

Carbon-14 is unstable and its atoms decay into nitrogen atoms. (Biblical Chronologist). Willard Libby was the first person to measure the half life of radiocarbon, or carbon-14, recording it as 5730 years. When they are alive, plants absorb and digest carbon-14 from carbon dioxide.(Beta Analytic). They absorb their C-atoms via the foods that they consume. The absorption of the atoms stops when the organism dies. (Biblical Chronologist). Their carbon-14 content decreases gradually once they die. The rate at which the decrease occurs is determined by the law of radioactive decay. The amount of carbon-14 that is left in an organism after its death can be used to tell how old it is, its age. (Beta Analytic)


Gas proportional counting.

This method counts the beta particles (products of radiocarbon decay) that a particle or organism releases. Measurement in gas proportional counters occurs after the carbon has been converted into carbon dioxide. (Beta Analytic)

Liquid scintillation counting

In this method, a scintillator is added to the sample in its liquid form. A flash of light is produced by scintillator when it reacts with the products of radiocarbon decay. A count is made when the two photomultipliers through which the sample vial is passed register the flash of light. (Beta Analytic)

Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS)

It is the most efficient manner to measure how much carbon-14 is in a sample. The amount of carbon-14 is measured directly in relation to the amount of carbon-12 and carbon-13. Thus method pays no mind to the amount of the products of radiocarbon decay that are in the sample, but to the number of carbon atoms that are present in the sample and to the ratio of the isotopes (Beta Analytic). AMS radiocarbon dating is a way to obtain dates from samples that are very small. The smaller sample sizes has allowed for an increase in the amount of organic remains that can be sampled. More sample materials can now also be used as a result of the reduced sample sizes. An increase in range of samples that can be dated multiple samples can be taken from a single archaeological site. The AMS dating method has the theoretical ability to double the time span of the normal radiocarbon dating. (Ojha 2013)

Once one of the three...

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