Advantages and disadvantages of carbon dating

For example: C has long been used as a tracer for chemical processes and pathways, the amount of tracer required using decay counting can be hazardous to the researchers, pose contamination problems or, in some cases, itself influence the process being studied.AMS allows very low levels of tracer to be used, completely avoiding these problems.Some scientists prefer the terms chronometric or calendar dating, as use of the word "absolute" implies an unwarranted certainty of accuracy.Absolute dating provides a numerical age or range in contrast with relative dating which places events in order without any measure of the age between events.These two pieces of information are sufficient to completely identify the ion as C atoms at the rate at which they decay.This requires sufficient atoms to be present to provide a large enough decay rate, as described above.At the terminal they pass through either a very thin carbon film or a tube filled with gas at low pressure (the stripper), depending on the particular accelerator.Collisions with carbon or gas atoms in the stripper remove several electrons from the carbon ions, changing their polarity from negative to positive. The positive ions are then accelerated through the second stage of the accelerator, reaching kinetic energies of the order of 10 to 30 million electron volts. This problem is solved in the tandem accelerator at the stripper –if three or more electrons are removed from the molecular ions the molecules dissociate into their component atoms. The kinetic energy that had accumulated up to now is distributed among the separate atoms, none of which has the same energy as a single C from the more intense "background" caused by the dissociated molecules on the basis of their kinetic energy.

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For example, techniques based on isotopes with half lives in the thousands of years, such as carbon-14, cannot be used to date materials that have ages on the order of billions of years, as the detectable amounts of the radioactive atoms and their decayed daughter isotopes will be too small to measure within the uncertainty of the instruments.Cosmic radiation entering the earth’s atmosphere produces carbon-14, and plants take in carbon-14 as they fix carbon dioxide.Carbon-14 moves up the food chain as animals eat plants and as predators eat other animals. It takes 5,730 years for half the carbon-14 to change to nitrogen; this is the half-life of carbon-14.The technique often cannot pinpoint the date of an archeological site better than historic records, but is highly effective for precise dates when calibrated with other dating techniques such as tree-ring dating.An additional problem with carbon-14 dates from archeological sites is known as the "old wood" problem.

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