background = #999999
isotope_name = Carbon-14
num_neutrons = 8
num_protons = 6
alternate_names = radiocarbon
abundance = 1 part per trillion
decay_product = 14N
error_halflife = 40 years
decay_energy1=0.156476 [cite web|title=AME atomic mass evaluation 2003 | url=http://www.nndc.bnl.gov/masses/mass.mas03 | author=A.H Waptstra, G. Audi, and C. Thibault| accessdate=2007-06-03]
Carbon-14, 14C, or radiocarbon, is a
radioactive isotopeof carbondiscovered on February 27, 1940, by Martin Kamenand Sam Rubenat the University of California Radiation Laboratoryin Berkeley. [cite journal |last=Kamen |first=Martin D. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1963 |month= |title=Early History of Carbon-14: Discovery of this supremely important tracer was expected in the physical sense but not in the chemical sense |journal=Science |volume=140 |issue=3567 |pages=584–590 |doi=10.1126/science.140.3567.584 |url= |accessdate= |quote= ] Its nucleus contains 6 protonsand 8 neutrons. Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon datingmethod to date archaeological, geological, and hydrogeological samples.
There are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon on Earth: 99% of the carbon is
carbon-12, 1% is carbon-13, and carbon-14 occurs in trace amounts, e.g. making up as much as 1 part per trillion (0.0000000001%) of the carbon in the atmosphere. The half-lifeof carbon-14 is 5,730±40 years. It decays into nitrogen-14through beta-decay. [cite web|url=http://www.nosams.whoi.edu/about/carbon_dating.html|title=What is carbon dating?|publisher=National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility|accessdate=2007-06-11] The activity of the "modern radiocarbon standard" [cite web|url=http://www.c14dating.com/agecalc.html|title=Carbon 14:age calculation|publisher=C14dating.com|accessdate=2007-06-11] is about 14 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per gram carbon [cite web | url=http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~martins/isohydro/c_14.html|title=Class notes for Isotope Hydrology EESC W 4886: Radiocarbon 14C | accessdate=2007-06-11|publisher=Martin Stute's homepage at Columbia] .
atomic massof carbon-14 is about 14.003241 amu. The different isotopes of carbon do not differ appreciably in their chemical properties. This is used in chemical research in a technique called carbon labeling: some carbon-12 atoms of a given compound are replaced with carbon-14 atoms (or some carbon-13atoms) in order to trace them along chemical reactions involving the given compound.
Origin and radioactive decay of carbon-14
Carbon-14 is produced in the upper layers of the troposphere and the stratosphere by
thermal neutrons absorbed by nitrogenatoms. When cosmic rays enter the atmosphere, they undergo various transformations, including the production of neutrons. The resulting neutrons (1n) participate in the following reaction:
:1n + 14N → 14C + 1H
The highest rate of carbon-14 production takes place at altitudes of 9 to 15 km (30.000 to 50,000 ft) and at high geomagnetic latitudes, but the carbon-14 readily mixes and becomes evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere and reacts with
oxygento form radioactive carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide also dissolves in water and thus permeates the oceans.Carbon-14 can also be produced in iceby fast neutrons causing spallationreactions in oxygen.
Carbon-14 then goes through radioactive
By emitting an electron and an anti-neutrino, carbon-14 (
half lifeof 5730 years) decays into the stable, non-radioactive isotope nitrogen-14.
The inventory of carbon-14 in Earth's biosphere is about 300 million
Curies, of which most is in the oceans. [cite web| title=Human Health Fact Sheet - Carbon 14 | publisher=Argonne National Laboratory, EVS | month=August | year=2005 | url=http://www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/carbon14.pdf]
Radiocarbon dating is a
radiometric datingmethod that uses (14C) to determine the age of carbonaceousmaterials up to about 60,000 years old. The technique was developed by Willard Libbyand his colleagues in 1949 [cite journal | author =Arnold, J. R. and Libby, W. F. | year=1949| title= Age Determinations by Radiocarbon Content: Checks with Samples of Known Age, | journal=Science | volume=110 | pages=678–680 | pmid=15407879 | doi=10.1126/science.110.2869.678] during his tenure as a professor at the University of Chicago. Libby estimated that the radioactivity of exchangeable carbon-14 would be about 14 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per gram. In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistryfor this work. One of the frequent uses of the technique is to date organic remains from archaeological sites. Plants fix atmospheric carbon during photosynthesis, so the level of 14C in plants and animals when they die approximately equals the level of 14C in the atmosphere at that time. However, it decreases thereafter from radioactive decay, allowing the date of death or fixation to be estimated. The initial 14C level for the calculation can either be estimated, or else directly compared with known year-by-year data from tree-ring data ( dendrochronology) to 10,000 years ago, or from cave deposits ( speleothems), to about 45,000 years of age. A calculation or (more accurately) a direct comparison with tree ring or cave-deposit carbon-14 levels, gives the wood or animal sample age-from-formation. The technique has limitations within the modern industrial era, due to fossil fuel carbon (which has little carbon-14) being released into the atmosphere in large quantities, in the past few centuries.
Carbon-14 and fossil fuels
Most man-made chemicals are made of
fossil fuels, such as petroleumor coal, in which the carbon-14 has long since decayed. However, oil deposits often contain trace amounts of carbon-14 (varying significantly, but ranging from 1% the ratio found in living organisms to amounts comparable to an apparent age of 40,000 years for oils with the highest levels of carbon-14).Fact|date=July 2007 This may indicate possible contamination by small amounts of bacteria, underground sources of radiation (such as uranium decay, although reported measured amounts of 14C/U in uranium-bearing ores imply an unlikely (improbably large) quantity of uranium involved, roughly half as much as the carbon in the deposits, to match the 10-15 14C/C measured [cite journal|title =Carbon-14 Abundances in Uranium Ores and Possible Spontaneous Exotic Emission from U-Series Nuclides|last = Jull|first = A.J.T.|coauthors =Barker, D., Donahue, D. J.|journal = Meteorics|volume = 20 |month=12|year=1985|pages=676 ( [http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1985Metic..20..676J abstract] )] ), or other unknown secondary sources of carbon-14 production. Presence of carbon-14 in the isotopic signatureof a sample of carbonaceous material indicates its possible contamination by biogenic sources or the decay of radioactive material in surrounding geologic strata.
Carbon-14 and nuclear tests
The above-ground nuclear tests that occurred in several countries between 1955 and 1963 dramatically increased the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and subsequently in the biosphere; after the tests ended the atmospheric concentration of the isotope began to decrease.
One side effect of the change in atmospheric carbon-14 is that this enables the determination of the birth year of an individual: the amount of carbon-14 in
tooth enamelis measured with accelerator mass spectrometryand compared to records of past atmospheric carbon-14 concentrations. Since teeth are formed at a specific age and do not exchange carbon thereafter, this method allows age to be determined to within 1.6 years. This method only works for individuals born after 1943, [cite journal |url=http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0922_050922_nuke_body.html | title=Radiation in Teeth Can Help Date, ID Bodies, Experts Say | journal = National Geographic News | date=2005-09-22 ] [cite journal| author=Spalding KL, Buchholz BA, Bergman LE, Druid H, Frisen J.| title= Forensics: age written in teeth by nuclear tests | journal=Nature | date=2005-09-15| volume=437 | pages=333–4 | pmid=16163340| doi=10.1038/437333a] and it must be known whether the individual was born in the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere.
An alternative dating method relies on the lens of the eye; transparent proteins called "lens crystallines" produced during the first year of life are unchanged afterward, so measuring carbon-14 concentrations there can provide a record of the time of birth. The primary restrictions on the technology are that the person has to have been born after 1950, the lens must be removed while the subject is alive or within three days after death before it decays too much, and the individual cannot have subsisted primarily on seafood. [cite news |url=http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-lens23feb23,1,6680100.story | title=Radioactive eyes don't lie (about your age, anyway) | work = Los Angeles Times | date=2008-02-23]
Carbon-14 in the human body
Since essentially all sources of human food are derived from plants, the carbon that comprises our bodies contains carbon-14 at the same concentration as the atmosphere. The beta-decays from this internal radiocarbon contribute approx 1 mrem/year (.01
mSv/year) to each person's dose of ionizing radiation. [cite book| title=Ionizing Radiation Exposure of the Population of the United States | author=NCRP Report No. 93 | publisher=National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements | year=1987 ( [http://lbl.gov/abc/wallchart/chapters/15/3.html excerpt] ) ] This is small compared to the doses from potassium-40 (0.39 mSv/year) and radon(which vary).
Carbon-14 can be used as a
radioactive tracerin medicine. In the urea breath test, a diagnostic test for " Helicobacter pylori", urea labeled with approximately convert|1|uCi|kBq|abbr=on|lk=on carbon-14 is fed to a patient. In the event of a "H. pylori" infection, the bacterial ureaseenzyme breaks down the urea into ammoniaand radioactively-labeled carbon dioxide, which can be detected by low-level counting of the patient's breath. [cite web| title=Society of Nuclear Medicine Procedure Guideline for C-14 Urea Breath Test | date=2001-06-23 | url=http://interactive.snm.org/docs/pg_ch07_0403.pdf | accessdate=2007-07-04|format=PDF]
*cite book |title=Radiant Science, Dark Politics: A Memoir of the Nuclear Age |last=Kamen |first=Martin D. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1985 |publisher=University of California Press |location=Berkeley |isbn=0520049292 |pages= |url=
* [http://www.nosams.whoi.edu/about/carbon_dating.html What is Carbon Dating?] ,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
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