How does carbon 14 differ from carbon 12 and 13?

1 Answer


See below.


Carbon exists in several isotopes. The most common of these is carbon 12, 13, 14. All of these isotopes have the same atomic number but different mass numbers.

Carbon has the atomic number of 6 which means that all isotopes have the same proton number.

However, the number of neutrons is different, thus giving different mass numbers. Carbon-12 has 6 neutrons, carbon-13 has 7 neutrons, and carbon-14 contains 8 neutrons.

Carbon-12 and 13 are stable isotopes, which means that the nucleus does not undergo radioactive decay.

Carbon-14 possesses an unstable nucleus which undergoes radioactive decay. One of the neutrons in carbon-14 is changed to a proton through the process of beta decay.

The proton number increase by one, and consequently, the atomic number is no longer 6, but 7. The new element is nitrogen. This is the process of transmutation.

Carbon-14 is used in carbon dating to date certain fossils.