What happens to the carbon-14 in a living organism when it dies? How can this be used to establish how long ago the organism died?
Here, we are going to discuss what happens to the carbon-14 in the living organisms when it dies. Also, how this can be used to establish the time of death of the organism.
Since, carbon-14 atoms are radioactive, they decay and convert themselves to nitrogen-14 atoms.
Carbon-14 → Nitrogen-14 + 𝜷
As long as we are alive, the decaying carbon-14 are being replaced by new carbon-14 and maintain consistent levels of the isotope. When a living organism dies, it can no longer absorb carbon from the air and hence, the number of carbon-14 atoms disintegrate and over time, there are fewer and fewer carbon-14 atoms.
By measuring the amount of the remaining carbon-14 in the organism after death, we can determine how long it has been since death.The process involves the determination of the amount of carbon-14 remaining in the sample at a later time, usually measured as the ratio of the isotopes C-14/C-12. This value, then is compared with the assumed initial carbon-14 content to estimate how long ago the organism died, based on the half-life and other calibration factors.