Radiocarbon dating of a piece of wood

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In summary, the problem is solvable by using the equation N(t)= N_0 \cdot e^{-\lambda t} and taking into account an assumption of the original ratio of C14 to C12 in the wood. The measured decay rate can be used to determine the current number of atoms of C14 remaining in the sample, even though the wood is technically a "dead" organism.
  • #1
Lindsayyyy
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Hi

Homework Statement



A lance of wood is found wheres one piece contains 2,70 g 12^C. A scintillation counter shows 27,3 radiactive decay per minute.

How old is the lance?



Homework Equations



[tex]N(t)= N_0 \cdot e^{-\lambda t}[/tex]

maybe half life of 14^C : 5730 years.



The Attempt at a Solution



My attempt was using the above equation, I have nothing else given (like mass of a C atom etc). My problem is I think I am missing some information. I tried to get to the solution by using the relative ratio of 12C and 14C but I read that this only counts for living organisms. Is it even possible to solve this without any further information? Sorry for such a short attempt at a solution but I have no idea, wasn't even able to find something which helps me and I really like to understand that problem.

Thanks for your help
 
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  • #2
It looks like the problem is solvable if you take into account an assumption of the original ratio of C14 to C12. The measured decay rate should tell you the current number of atoms of C14 remaining in the sample.
 
  • #3
Lindsayyyy said:
I tried to get to the solution by using the relative ratio of 12C and 14C but I read that this only counts for living organisms.

One example of a living organism is the tree that the wood came from
 
  • #4
but wood is a "dead" organism :). I though I am not allowed to use that information for dead objects. I think I can solve it than, thanks.
 
  • #5
Lindsayyyy said:
but wood is a "dead" organism :). I though I am not allowed to use that information for dead objects. I think I can solve it than, thanks.

Wood is dead as soon as the tree dies. That's when its radiocarbon clock starts ticking, as the "living" C14/C12 ratio is no longer maintained by constant replenishment though metabolism.
 

Related to Radiocarbon dating of a piece of wood

What is radiocarbon dating and how does it work?

Radiocarbon dating is a method used by scientists to determine the age of organic materials, such as wood, by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present. Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope that is constantly being formed in the Earth's atmosphere. When an organism dies, it stops absorbing carbon-14, and the amount present begins to decrease at a predictable rate. By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in a sample, scientists can calculate how long it has been since the organism died and thus determine the age of the sample.

Why is wood a good material for radiocarbon dating?

Wood is a good material for radiocarbon dating because it is organic and contains carbon-14. Additionally, trees can live for hundreds or even thousands of years, so wood samples can provide a wide range of dates. This makes it a useful tool for dating archaeological artifacts and studying past climates.

What are the limitations of radiocarbon dating?

Although radiocarbon dating is a widely used and accurate method, it does have some limitations. It can only be used to date organic materials, so it is not useful for dating rocks or other inorganic substances. Additionally, it is only accurate up to a certain point, as the amount of carbon-14 in a sample can become too small to measure after about 50,000 years.

How do scientists ensure the accuracy of radiocarbon dating results?

Scientists take several steps to ensure the accuracy of radiocarbon dating results. They carefully choose and prepare samples, using techniques such as removing contaminants and calibrating the results with other dating methods. They also use statistical models and multiple samples to reduce the margin of error.

Can radiocarbon dating be used to determine the exact age of a piece of wood?

Radiocarbon dating can provide a date range for a sample, but it cannot determine the exact age. This is because the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere has varied over time, so the rate of decay is not constant. Additionally, factors such as contamination and natural fluctuations in the amount of carbon-14 can affect the accuracy of the results. However, with careful calibration and analysis, scientists can often narrow down the age of a sample to within a few decades or centuries.

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