In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.He first demonstrated the accuracy of radiocarbon dating by accurately estimating the age of wood from an ancient Egyptian royal barge of which the age was known from historical documents.Scientists create artificial radioisotopes by bombarding stable atoms of an element with subatomic particles in a nuclear reactor or in an atom smasher, or cyclotron.When the nucleus of a stable atom is charged by bombarding particles, the atom usually becomes unstable, or radioactive, and is said to be “labeled” or “tagged.” See also a radioactive form of an element.For the most accurate work, variations are compensated by means of calibration curves.The method was developed by Willard Libby and his colleagues at the University of Chicago in 1949.Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.
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A radioisotope consists of unstable atoms that undergo radioactive decay emitting alpha, beta or gamma radiation.
Radioisotopes occur naturally, as in the cases of radium and uranium, or may be created artificially. Artificial radioisotopes are created by bombarding stable atoms of an element with subatomic particles in a nuclear reactor or in an atom smasher, or cyclotron.