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Carbon 14 Essay

1807 words - 7 pages

Carbon-14On Earth, Carbon has two stable (nonradioactive) isotopes which are carbon-12 and carbon-13 and one unstable isotope which is carbon-14. The numbers 12, 13 and 14 represent the atomic mass of the respective isotopes (the quantity that shows the number of protons added to the number of neutrons the atom possesses) (Bydlon, N.D.). Carbon-14, also known as radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon which contains a nucleus with 6 protons and 8 neutrons (Staff of Science Daily, N.D.). Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons but the same number of protons; the different possible versions of each element are then called isotopes.There are two types of isotopes: stable isotopes and radioactive isotopes. Stable isotopes are isotopes that have a stable proton neutron combination and so do not show any signs of decay, this is caused by the amount of neutrons present in the atom (Staff of NOSAMS, N.D.). Radioactive isotopes are those isotopes that have an unstable proton-neutron combination. These isotopes decay, emitting certain types of radiation such as beta, alpha or gamma rays. Since Radiocarbon's neutron to proton ratio is not stable or equal and too immense the nucleus emits beta particles/rays which later on convert to nitrogen-14, making Carbon-14 a radioactive isotope.Carbon-14/Radiocarbon was discovered on the 27th of February, 1940 by Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben at the University of California Radiation Laboratory, in Berkeley, although its existence had been suggested by Franz Kurie in 1934 (Staff of Science Daily, N.D.). Carbon-14 can be naturally produced in the atmosphere when cosmic rays enter the earth's atmosphere, rarely one of these cosmic rays collides with an atom, creating a secondary cosmic ray in the form of a energetic neutron and if this energetic neutron collides with a nitrogen atom, the nitrogen atom (nitrogen-14) with seven protons and seven neutrons would turn into a carbon-14 atom with six protons and eight neutrons (Brain, N.D.). Therefore the abundance of 14C varies from 0.0000000001% to 0%. Radiocarbon can also be created by other neutron reactions such as with thermal neutrons, fast neutrons and the production by thermal neutron irradiation. Carbon-14 can also be found in living organisms because carbon-14 atoms combine with oxygen to later on form carbon dioxide, which plants absorb for photosynthesis and then animals and humans eat these plants and take in carbon-14 as well (Brain, N.D.).Carbon-14 is used in the important process of radiocarbon dating (carbon dating). Carbon dating is a radiometric dating (technique used to date materials such as rocks) technique that uses the decay of carbon-14 to estimate the age of organic materials, such as wood, leather or fossil fuels, up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years (Staff of NDT Resource Center, N.D.). Radiocarbon dating was introduced to the world of science and anthropology by Willard Libby in 1949. He was awarded the...

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