# Activity of 1 g of carbon if 1 in 10^12 atoms are carbon-14

• WhiteWolf98
In summary: It is negligible in that it makes up an insignificant portion of the mass of 1 gram of carbon. No scale could detect its contribution. So when measuring out the 1 gram sample, you can consider it to be pure C12. In order to determine the number of C14 atoms that came along for the ride, you look at the abundance ratio.
WhiteWolf98

## Homework Statement

Carbon-14 decays by β emission and has a half-life of 5570 years.
1. What is the decay constant of carbon-14?
2. What is the activity of 1 g of carbon if 1 in 1012 atoms are carbon-14?
3. After what time will the activity per gram have fallen to 3 Bq?

λt½ = ln(2)
A = A0e-λt
A = λN

## The Attempt at a Solution

Question 1[/B]
λt½ = ln(2)
λ= ln(2)/5570
= 1.24 * 10-4 year-1

Question 2
Mr of carbon-14 is 14 g mol-1
1 mol = 6.022*1023 atoms
Atoms in 1 g = (6.022*1023)/14
= 4.30*1022 atoms

Don't know what to do from here. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

Hi WhiteWolf98, Welcome to Physics Forums!

WhiteWolf98 said:
Question 2
Mr of carbon-14 is 14 g mol-1
1 mol = 6.022*1023 atoms
Atoms in 1 g = (6.022*1023)/14
= 4.30*1022 atoms
Remember that not all the atoms are C14. What's the main isotope and how big a contribution does C14 make to the given quantity of the carbon?

Main isotope of carbon is carbon-12. Do I just divide the number of atoms by 1*10-12?

Sure. But first calculate the number of atoms using the overwhelmingly more abundant C12 mass.

If you ever come across a case where the ratios of isotope abundance are closer to unity you'll have to use a more subtle mathematical approach, but in this case this approximation is all but perfect.

gneill said:
Sure. But first calculate the number of atoms using the overwhelmingly more abundant C12 mass.

If you ever come across a case where the ratios of isotope abundance are closer to unity you'll have to use a more subtle mathematical approach, but in this case this approximation is all but perfect.

I don't understand what carbon-12 has to do with this question; the question is asking about carbon-14. Wouldn't introducing more isotopes make it more complicated than it already is?

The question asks about 1 gram of carbon, and says that only 1 in 1012 atoms of it are C14. So what is the rest of it made up of? Will C14 make up the whole of the 1 gram mass?

gneill said:
The question asks about 1 gram of carbon, and says that only 1 in 1012 atoms of it are C14. So what is the rest of it made up of? Will C14 make up the whole of the 1 gram mass?

It seems it does. Well, I have no idea anymore; am I supposed to be working out the activity of carbon-12 or carbon-14? There lies also the existence of carbon-13, so if you consider that too, then this question is unanswerable. I will have to talk with the mastermind who created the question!

WhiteWolf98 said:
It seems it does. Well, I have no idea anymore; am I supposed to be working out the activity of carbon-12 or carbon-14? There lies also the existence of carbon-13, so if you consider that too, then this question is unanswerable. I will have to talk with the mastermind who created the question!
1 in 1012 is an insignificant contribution to the overall mass. C13 makes a much larger contribution than C14 percentage wise, but it is still small compared to C12 which is the overwhelmingly largest contributor to the makeup of a given sample (unless it's specially prepared to enhance some particular isotope).

For this question you can assume that the only measurable contribution to the mass of the 1 gram is C12. Work out the number of atoms of C12 that would represent. You won't introduce any significant error by assuming that 1 x 10-12 of them are actually the C14 that you're interested in.

gneill said:
1 in 1012 is an insignificant contribution to the overall mass. C13 makes a much larger contribution than C14 percentage wise, but it is still small compared to C12 which is the overwhelmingly largest contributor to the makeup of a given sample (unless it's specially prepared to enhance some particular isotope).

For this question you can assume that the only measurable contribution to the mass of the 1 gram is C12. Work out the number of atoms of C12 that would represent. You won't introduce any significant error by assuming that 1 x 10-12 of them are actually the C14 that you're interested in.

In other words, the number of carbon-14 atoms is negligible? And all the information given about carbon-14 serves as a red herring?

WhiteWolf98 said:
In other words, the number of carbon-14 atoms is negligible? And all the information given about carbon-14 serves as a red herring?
It is negligible in that it makes up an insignificant portion of the mass of 1 gram of carbon. No scale could detect its contribution. So when measuring out the 1 gram sample, you can consider it to be pure C12. In order to determine the number of C14 atoms that came along for the ride, you look at the abundance ratio. One in 1012 of the atoms in the sample will be C14 rather than C12.

gneill said:
It is negligible in that it makes up an insignificant portion of the mass of 1 gram of carbon. No scale could detect its contribution. So when measuring out the 1 gram sample, you can consider it to be pure C12. In order to determine the number of C14 atoms that came along for the ride, you look at the abundance ratio. One in 1012 of the atoms in the sample will be C14 rather than C12.

I appreciate the help, thanks.

You're very welcome.

## 1. What is the significance of 1 in 10^12 atoms being carbon-14?

The number 1 in 10^12 represents a very small fraction of the total number of carbon atoms. This is important because it allows scientists to accurately measure and study the activity of a single gram of carbon-14.

## 2. How is the activity of carbon-14 measured?

The activity of carbon-14 is measured using a technique called radiometric dating. This involves measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in a sample and comparing it to the amount of stable carbon isotopes. The ratio of carbon-14 to stable carbon can then be used to determine the age of the sample.

## 3. What is the activity of 1 gram of carbon-14?

The activity of 1 gram of carbon-14 is defined as the number of radioactive decays that occur in that sample over a specific period of time. It is typically measured in units of becquerels (Bq) or curies (Ci).

## 4. How does the activity of 1 gram of carbon-14 change over time?

The activity of 1 gram of carbon-14 decreases over time due to radioactive decay. Carbon-14 has a half-life of approximately 5,730 years, meaning that after this amount of time, half of the carbon-14 atoms in a sample will have decayed into stable carbon isotopes.

## 5. What is the importance of studying the activity of carbon-14?

Studying the activity of carbon-14 is important for a variety of scientific fields, including archaeology, geology, and environmental science. It allows scientists to accurately date and track the age of artifacts, fossils, and geological formations, and to understand processes such as carbon cycling and climate change.

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