Isotope dating old objects

The only exceptions are nuclides that decay by the process of electron capture, such as beryllium-7, strontium-85, and zirconium-89, whose decay rate may be affected by local electron density.

For all other nuclides, the proportion of the original nuclide to its decay products changes in a predictable way as the original nuclide decays over time.

For instance, carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years.

After an organism has been dead for 60,000 years, so little carbon-14 is left that accurate dating cannot be established.

Additionally, elements may exist in different isotopes, with each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.

On the other hand, the concentration of carbon-14 falls off so steeply that the age of relatively young remains can be determined precisely to within a few decades.

If a material that selectively rejects the daughter nuclide is heated, any daughter nuclides that have been accumulated over time will be lost through diffusion, setting the isotopic "clock" to zero.

As the mineral cools, the crystal structure begins to form and diffusion of isotopes is less easy.

At a certain temperature, the crystal structure has formed sufficiently to prevent diffusion of isotopes.

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