Carbon 12 vs. Carbon 14

Difference Between Carbon 12 and Carbon 14

The two isotopes of carbon are Carbon 12 and Carbon-14. Carbon atom is composed of 6 protons. They generally have six neutrons; too, this is the reason for their being called as carbon 12. At times, instead of 6 neutrons there are 8 which is when it becomes carbon-14. In chemical reactions, carbon 12 and carbon-14 behaves in a similar way. Generally carbon exists in C 12 form, but occasionally it is also found as C 14. Let us see the differences between the two isotopes of carbon.

Since the weight of protons and neutrons is the same, having eight neutrons, 14 C is 20% heavier than C 12. The atomic number of an element is the number of protons present in its nucleus. Since both C 12 & C 14 that have the same number of protons, its atomic number is the same but their atomic weights are different because of different number of neutrons. C 12 and C 14 also behave differently when it comes to nuclear reactions.

Another difference between the two isotopes is that C 12 is found in abundance in the earth’s crust, whereas C-14 is uncommon. C 12 is an isotope of carbon which has stability while C-14 is an unstable isotope. Because of instability radioactive decay of C-14 occurs. This process occurs for each unstable isotope and is a natural process. This unique property of C 14 is used for the determination of age of the objects that are thousands of years and is used extensively in archeology. The half life of 14 C is 5730 years.

C 12 is further taken as a standard to measure atomic weights of other elements. It has become a standard for measuring atomic weights in 1961, replacing the oxygen atom. C 14 was discovered in 1940 by Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben.


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