Principles of radiometric dating
Over the years, other secondary radiocarbon standards have been made.Radiocarbon activity of materials in the background is also determined to remove its contribution from results obtained during a sample analysis.Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and even biomedicine.Radiocarbon, or carbon 14, is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms.American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks.
In this method, the carbon 14 content is directly measured relative to the carbon 12 and carbon 13 present. Some inorganic matter, like a shell’s aragonite component, can also be dated as long as the mineral’s formation involved assimilation of carbon 14 in equilibrium with the atmosphere.The radiocarbon age of a certain sample of unknown age can be determined by measuring its carbon 14 content and comparing the result to the carbon 14 activity in modern and background samples.The principal modern standard used by radiocarbon dating labs was the Oxalic Acid I obtained from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. Around 95% of the radiocarbon activity of Oxalic Acid I is equal to the measured radiocarbon activity of the absolute radiocarbon standard—a wood in 1890 unaffected by fossil fuel effects.Background radiocarbon activity is measured, and the values obtained are deducted from the sample’s radiocarbon dating results.Background samples analyzed are usually geological in origin of infinite age such as coal, lignite, and limestone.By knowing how much carbon 14 is left in a sample, the age of the organism when it died can be known.It must be noted though that radiocarbon dating results indicate when the organism was alive but not when a material from that organism was used.This scintillator produces a flash of light when it interacts with a beta particle.A vial with a sample is passed between two photomultipliers, and only when both devices register the flash of light that a count is made.When the stocks of Oxalic Acid I were almost fully consumed, another standard was made from a crop of 1977 French beet molasses.The new standard, Oxalic Acid II, was proven to have only a slight difference with Oxalic Acid I in terms of radiocarbon content.