When these energetic neutrons collide with a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom it turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons).Since Nitrogen gas makes up about 78 percent of the Earth's air, by volume, a considerable amount of Carbon-14 is produced.
Before we get into the details of how radiometric dating methods are used, we need to review some preliminary concepts from chemistry.
Each sample type has specific problems associated with its use for dating purposes, including contamination and special environmental effects.
More information on the sources of error in carbon dating are presented at the bottom of this page.
Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.
Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon-14, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases.