Dating rocks using radioactive isotopes


This process begins as soon as a living thing dies and is unable to produce more carbon-14.Plants produce carbon-14 through photosynthesis, while animals and people ingest carbon-14 by eating plants. Scientists determine the ages of once-living things by measuring the amount of carbon-14 in the material.For biological objects older than 50,000 years, scientists use radioactive dating to determine the age of rocks surrounding where the material was found.



It is the number of neutrons in their nuclei that varies, but too many neutrons make the nuclei unstable, as in carbon-14.Each atom is understood to be made up of three basic parts.The nucleus contains protons (tiny particles each with a single positive electric charge) and neutrons (particles without any electric charge).So, for example, every carbon atom contains six protons and six electrons, but the number of neutrons in each nucleus can be six, seven, or even eight.

Therefore, carbon has three isotopes, which are specified as carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14 (figure 1). Comparison of stable and unstable atoms of the element carbon.

Geologists regularly use five parent isotopes as the basis for the radioactive methods to date rocks: uranium-238, uranium-235, potassium-40, rubidium-87, and samarium-147.


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