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Over time, carbon decays in predictable ways.

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Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50, years. Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts. Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon. Isotopes of a particular element have the same of protons in their nucleus, but different s of neutrons.

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Learn more about this course. The Carbon 14 C dating method The Carbon 14, or radiocarbon dating method is one of the best-known methods of dating human fossils, and has been around since the late s. View transcript.

What is radiocarbon dating?

The first step is to drill the bone and collect the powder. We then do tests that verify the bone is suitable for dating. In the chemistry laboratory, we dissolve the bones with the dilute acid so we can isolate the collagen.

The collagen is the organic protein in bone that is the most robust and most suitable for radiocarbon dating. The next step is we take the cleaned collagen sample, and we freeze dry it to remove all of the water from the sample.

After freeze drying, we end up with nice, pure, clean, fluffy collagen. The next step is we have to convert the collagen to carbon dioxide. And to do this, we weigh out 2 milligrams of collagen, and we load it into a quartz tube.


Inside the quartz tube, we add copper oxide and silver. Copper oxide provides oxygen to generate the carbon dioxide.

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Now, we load the sample on a vacuum line, where we evacuate all of the air out of the quartz tube. We then use a flame torch to seal the tube with our pure collagen sample inside.

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We next put the samples into the oven at degrees for six hours. This is to make CO2 inside the quartz tubes.

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The first step is to load the quartz tube onto the vacuum line. We evacuate, or remove, all of the air from around the tube, and then we crack the sample. We isolate the carbon dioxide using liquid nitrogen, which is cold enough to freeze carbon dioxide into a solid.

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We transfer the carbon dioxide into an individual reactor. We then add hydrogen to the carbon dioxide. We heat it at degrees, and after two hours, the carbon dioxide has turned into elemental carbon or graphite. We then take the graphite, and we press it into our small, aluminium sample holders.

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Now, we will load the samples into the accelerator mass spectrometer. Our sample wheel holds 39 samples.

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Inside we have a mixture of standards, secondary standards, blank samples, and our unknown samples. Let me show you how the accelerator mass spectrometer works. Our graphite samples are inside our ion source. In the ion source, we heat up cesium, which is a metal. The positive cesium ions interact with the graphite, and generate negative carbon ions. These ions are accelerated to 44, volts. The ions are then separated in a magnetic field, or a mass spectrometer, where we can separate out carbon, carbon, and carbon The ions and molecules, which are also in the beam, are further accelerated tovolts.

The ions and molecules then go through a cloud of helium gas, where all the molecules are broken up. The beam then goes through another magnetic field, or the second mass spectrometer, in the accelerator mass spectrometer, where we can measure carbon and carbon Carbon is further filtered by an energy filtre, and we measure each carbon atom as it hits a silicon detector. Share this post.

Counting carbon

The Carbon 14, or radiocarbon dating method is one of the best-known methods of dating human fossils, and has been around since the late s. Want to keep learning? This content is taken from Griffith University online course. This content is taken from Griffith University online course. See other articles from this course. This article is from the online course:.

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