Isotopes used in radiocarbon dating

When the half-life was corrected in 1950, the year was taken as a base date from which to calculate all resulting dates.

isotopes used in radiocarbon dating-19

There are three carbon isotopes that occur as part of the Earth's natural processes; these are carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14.

The unstable nature of carbon 14 (with a precise half-life that makes it easy to measure) means it is ideal as an absolute dating method.

Typically, a Master's Degree in chemistry is required because of the extensive lab work.

Increasingly though, students are learning about the principles of radiocarbon dates in archaeology, palaeontology and climate science degrees and can combine cross-disciplinary studies.

This does not mean that we have a precise year of 3780BC, it means we then need to calibrate through other methods that will show us how atmospheric concentrations of the C isotope has changed - most typically through the dendrochronology records (tree ring data) (10).

Very old trees such as North American Bristlecone Pine are ideal for constructing long and accurate records of the state of the atmosphere.The next big step in the radiocarbon dating method would be Accelerated Mass Spectrometry which was developed in the late 1980s and published its first results in 1994 (3).This was a giant leap forward in that it offered far more accurate dates for a far smaller sample (9); this made destruction of samples a far less delicate issue to researchers, especially on artefacts such as The Shroud of Turin for which accurate dates were now possible without damaging a significant part of the artefact.When an organism dies, it stops absorbing the radioactive isotope and immediately starts decaying (7).As previously mentioned, the half life of the C isotope is 5,730 years - this means that it takes 5,730 years to reach half the radioactivity that the organism had at the point of death, another 5,730 years to reach 25% radioactivity it had at the point of death and so on.It is presumed that the proportion of atmospheric C is the same today as it was in 1950 (10), (11) and that the half-life remains the same.