The half-life is always the same regardless of how many nuclei you have left, and this very useful property lies at the heart of radiocarbon dating. The graph below shows the decay curve (you may recognize it as an exponential decay) and it shows the amount, or percent, of carbon-14 remaining.
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.
Radiocarbon dating has been used extensively since its discovery.
Examples of use include analyzing charcoal from prehistoric caves, ancient linen and wood, and mummified remains.
After viewing the video on carbon dating, use your newfound knowledge to: Did you know…
We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities.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.For the record, a beta-particle is a specific type of nuclear decay. Image 1 shows carbon-14 production by high energy neutrons hitting nitrogen-14 atoms, while in Image 2, carbon-14 naturally decomposes through beta-particle production.Notice that the nitrogen-14 atom is recreated and goes back into the cycle.Carbon dating was used routinely from the 1950s onward, and it confirmed the age of these historical remains.