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But carbon-14 is extremely rare, and to use it for identifying fossil fuels, scientists need to be able to measure it at concentrations as low as 1 part in 10 trillion.
The new instrument, developed by NIST chemists Adam Fleisher and David Long and based on a technology called cavity ringdown spectroscopy (CRDS), promises to dramatically reduce the cost of those measurements. "Measuring carbon isotopes is an extremely useful technique, but until now, it has found limited use because of the cost," said Long.So it's a record of the fraction of carbon-14 in some of those years.And you can go down to resolutions of as small as 10 years.So just to answer the question, it's actually probably in really, the last 50 years where the fossil fuel use has really exploded that we've really been changing the proportion of carbon-14 relative to the other isotopes of carbon.
But anyway, hopefully that rests some of your worries about the assumption that I made in the last video about carbon-14 being relatively constant.This will open the way for new methods in the biofuels and bioplastics industries, in scientific research, and environmental monitoring.