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Carbon-14 dating can be used on objects ranging from a few hundred years old to 50,000 years old. Libby and others (University of Chicago) devised a method of estimating the age of organic material based on the decay rate of carbon-14.Carbon-14 is created from nitrogen-14 in the upper atmosphere of the earth.Radiation from the sun collides with atoms in the atmosphere. Radioactive decay is a first order rate process, which means the reaction proceeds according to the following equation:log is the quantity of radioactive material at time zero, X is the amount remaining after time t, and k is the first order rate constant, which is a characteristic of the isotope undergoing decay. Carbon-14 is produced in the atmosphere when neutrons from cosmic radiation react with nitrogen atoms: C ratio of 0.795 times that found in plants living today. Solution The half-life of carbon-14 is known to be 5720 years.The ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere and on earth is nearly constant, although there has been some change in carbon-14 concentration over the last 10,000 years.This technique is not restricted to bones; it can also be used on cloth, wood and plant fibers. The short half-life of carbon-14 means its cannot be used to date extremely old fossils.
Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50,000 years old.This technique is widely used on recent artifacts, but teachers should note that this technique will not work on older fossils (like those of the dinosaurs which are over 65 million years old).