Carbon dating for students

Researchers can find out how long ago something died using radiocarbon dating.

Bones and teeth from animals and humans, as well as artefacts made out of wood, fabric or paper are just some of the objects that can be aged using this process.

A (federally-funded) handling and analysis surcharge applies to small samples (2-9 µmol).

A 0 (federally-funded) surcharge applies to high precision analysis (minimum batch size 5 samples). Additional fees may be assessed for preparation of samples not ready for routine processing, samples which yield no analyzable carbon or those withdrawn at client request.

Radiocarbon dating is the technique upon which chronologies of the late Pleistocene and Holocene have been built.

This resource is designed to provide online information concerning the radiocarbon dating method.

We hope it will be of occasional use to radiocarbon users and interested students alike.

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Carbon-12 and carbon-13 are both stable isotopes, but carbon-14 is unstable and is radioactive. Libby and others (University of Chicago) devised a method of estimating the age of organic material based on the decay rate of carbon-14.Carbon-14 is produced in the atmosphere when neutrons from cosmic radiation react with nitrogen atoms: C ratio of 0.795 times that found in plants living today. Solution The half-life of carbon-14 is known to be 5720 years.​ Radioactive decay is a first order rate process, which means the reaction proceeds according to the following equation: is the quantity of radioactive material at time zero, X is the amount remaining after time t, and k is the first order rate constant, which is a characteristic of the isotope undergoing decay.$$ Time in this equation is measured in years from the moment when the plant dies ($t = 0$) and the amount of Carbon 14 remaining in the preserved plant is measured in micrograms (a microgram is one millionth of a gram).So when $t = 0$ the plant contains 10 micrograms of Carbon 14.

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