Skip to main content
Select Source:

decay curve

decay curve A graphical representation of the exponential rate at which radioactive disintegration occurs (see RADIOACTIVE DECAY). If half the parent nuclide remains after one time increment, one-quarter will remain after the next (identical) time increment, and so on. A plot of the surviving parent atoms against time in half-lives (see DECAY CONSTANT) gives a decay curve that approaches the zero line asymptotically. In theory it should never attain zero. The number of surviving parent atoms N(t) at the end of a number of half-lives (n) is simply N0/2n. Plotted as a function of time t, survivors form a characteristic decay curve, the equation of which is Nt = N0e−λt, where e = 2.718 and λ is the decay constant.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"decay curve." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"decay curve." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/decay-curve

"decay curve." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Retrieved September 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/decay-curve

decay curve

decay curve A graphic representation of the rate of decay of a radioactive isotope of an element. Radioactive disintegration is exponential. If half the parent nuclide remains after one time increment, one-quarter will remain after the next (identical) time increment, and so on. A plot of the surviving parent atoms against time in half-lives (see decay constant) gives a decay curve that approaches the zero line asymptotically. In theory it should never attain zero.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"decay curve." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"decay curve." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/decay-curve-0

"decay curve." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Retrieved September 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/decay-curve-0