Carbon dating years

Scientists and engineers are working with these carbon nanomaterials to build materials straight out of science-fiction.

A 2010 paper in the journal Nano Letters reports the invention of flexible, conductive textiles dipped in a carbon nanotube "ink" that could be used to store energy, perhaps paving the way for wearable batteries, solar cells and other electronics.

[See Periodic Table of the Elements] Carbon occurs naturally as carbon-12, which makes up almost 99 percent of the carbon in the universe; carbon-13, which makes up about 1 percent; and carbon-14, which makes up a minuscule amount of overall carbon but is very important in dating organic objects.

Animals incorporate carbon-14 into their bodies by eating plants or other plant-eating animals.

Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, meaning that after that time, half of the carbon-14 in a sample decays away, according to the University of Arizona.

When atoms bond, they share electrons in their outermost shell.

Carbon has four empty spaces in its outer shell, enabling it to bond to four other atoms.

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