What is carbon dating?

You might have heard the phrase “carbon dating” mentioned in the context of the ongoing Gyanvapi mosque case. But what is carbon dating? Let’s find out.

Scientific dating process

Carbon dating is a scientific process used to determine the age of an archaeological find or fossil. A key tool in the hands of scientists, archaeologists, and paleontologists, it is a widely used method of calculating the age of things that were once living by measuring the amounts of carbon, a chemical element, in them.

Carbon is found in every living being on Earth, meaning all living things have carbon in them in different forms. The method of carbon dating depends on the decay of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope found in Earth’s atmosphere.

Radiocarbon dating, also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating, is a radiometric dating method. It uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-containing materials up to 50,000 years old. The carbon dating method was proposed by American physicist Willard F. Libby in 1946 at the University of Chicago. One of the best discoveries that throws light on our present and past, carbon dating is also used in climate studies, biomedical applications and other fields.

Where is it used?

Anything that was once alive can undergo the carbon dating method. Things such as metal and stone do not have any organic material, so they can’t be dated using this method.

How is it arrived at?

Radiocarbon is present in every living organism. However, once the organism dies, it stops absorbing the carbon-14 radioisotope and the amount of the isotope present in the organism’s tissues goes down. According to scientists, carbon-14 has a half-life of about 5,730 years- that is, half the amount of the radioisotope present at any given time will spontaneously decay during the following 5,730 years. As carbon-14 is said to decay at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be arrived at by measuring the amount of radiocarbon still remaining in it. So it is the decay of carbon-14 that enables the dating of archaeological and other finds.

Picture Credit : Google 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *