Student Seminar 

Name: Mr. Abhishek Bharti 

Title- Radiocarbon Dating: Unravelling the Past through Isotopic Time Capsules

Date & Time: Thursday, 30th November 2023 at 4.00 p.m. 

Venue: Rajarshi Bhattacharya Memorial Lecture Hall (AG02/03), Chemical Sciences Building


Radiometric dating, also known as radioisotope dating techniques, is avital tool in geochronology, offering a window into the Earth’s past by quantifying the ages of different rocks, minerals, and fossils through the decay of radioactive isotopes as a time cloak. Among various Radiometric techniques, Radiocarbon dating is one of the powerful dating techniques that has changed the human history. The reliance of this technique on life-sustaining carbon gives it an edge over other radiometric techniques due to the information it could provide to different domains of science. This method relies on the principle that living organisms exchange atmospheric radioactive carbon-14 during their lifetime through the carbon cycle. After living beings die, the radioactive isotope decays at a known rate. Measuring the remaining carbon-14 in a sample allows scientists to estimate the time elapsed since the organism’s death. The technique plays a crucial role in establishing chronologies for anthropology, Biomedical applications, art objects, and geological formations, providing a chronological framework for understanding the temporal aspects of human history and environmental changes.[1]

This talk provides an overview of the fundamental principles and applications of radiocarbon dating. Furthermore, the talk explores the challenges and limitations associated with radiocarbon dating, such as fluctuations in the C-14 level of the atmosphere due to various natural and anthropogenic processes, various ways to incorporate these changes in the estimation of the age calculation and to make techniques more precise and within the minimum error limit.[2] In the end, I will conclude the talk by discussing the experimental setup of the C-14 detection experiment and further advancements in technology like Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy, which have significantly improved the precision and accuracy of radiocarbon dating, allowing the analysis of smaller samples with greater reliability.[3.4]


  1. Hajdas, I.; Ascough, P.; Garnett, M. H.; Fallon, S. J.; Pearson, C. L.; Quarta, G.; Spalding, K. L.; Yamaguchi, H.; Yoneda, M. Radiocarbon Dating. Nat. Rev. Methods Primers 2021, 1 (1), 1–26
  2. Svetlik, I.; Jull, A. J. T.; Molnár, M.; Povinec, P. P.; Kolář, T.; Demján, P.; Brabcova, K. P.; Brychova, V.; Dreslerová, D.; Rybníček, M.; Simek, P. The Best Possible Time Resolution: How Precise Could a Radiocarbon Dating Method Be? Addendum. Radiocarbon 2020, 62 (5), 1527–1527.
  3. Libby, W. F.; Anderson, E. C.; Arnold, J. R. Age Determination by Radiocarbon Content – World-Wide Assay of Natural Radiocarbon. Science 1949, 109, 227–228.
  4. Synal, H.-A.; Schulze-König, T.; Seiler, M.; Suter, M.; Wacker, L. Mass Spectrometric Detection of Radiocarbon for Dating Applications. Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. B 2013, 294, 349–352