This method had a tremendous impact on archaeology, as it allows to accurately date artifacts from a large timescale. He joined UC Berkeley's Radiation Laboratory, working with Sam Ruben.
The ensuing atomic interactions create a steady supply of c14 that rapidly diffuses throughout the atmosphere.
Plants take up c14 along with other carbon isotopes during photosynthesis in the proportions that occur in the atmosphere; animals acquire c14 by eating the plants (or other animals).
N through β emission, the isotope has a very long half life (later found to be 5730 years).
This opened up new possibilities for using radioactive tracers to elucidate reaction mechanisms.
In 1941 Libby received a Guggenheim fellowship to work at , Los Angeles, and director of its Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (from 1962) until his death.
He was the recipient of numerous honours, awards, and honourary degrees.
During the late 1950s, Libby and physicist ’s petition for a ban on nuclear weapons.
To prove the survivability of nuclear war, Libby built a fallout shelter at his house, an event that was widely publicized.
Working with several collaboraters, Libby established the natural occurrence of radiocarbon by detecting its radioactivity in methane from the Baltimore sewer.
In contrast, methane made from petroleum products had no measurable radioactivity.
Libby left Berkeley for Princeton University in 1941 on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and, when World War II broke out, he went to work at Columbia University, where he participated on the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic weapon.