Nuclear Chemistry

Nuclear Chemistry at Work

How does radioactive dating work?

Radioactive dating (also called radiometric dating) is a technique used to determine the age of a sample based on the ratio of isotopes of an element present in the sample. Using the known half-life of the isotope being studied, along with knowledge of the natural abundance of the isotopes present at the time the sample was formed, the age of the sample can be determined. To obtain an accurate age for a sample, it is required that none of the isotopes being measured have been able to escape or re-enter the sample over the course of its lifetime. Otherwise this could serve to establish a ratio of isotopic abundances that is not representative of that based purely on the half-life of the isotope whose decay is being measured.


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