He became well-known at University of Chicago for his work on natural carbon-14 (radiocarbon) and its use in dating archaeological artifacts, and natural tritium, and its use in hydrology and geophysics.
Besides the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1960, he received other distinctions, including the Research Corporation Award for 1951 for the radiocarbon dating technique; the Chandler Medal of Columbia University for outstanding achievement in the field of chemistry (1954); the American Chemical Society Award for Nuclear Applications in Chemistry (1956); the Elliott Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute (1957); the American Chemical Society's Willard Gibbs Medal Award (1958); the Albert Einstein Medal Award (1959); the Day Medal of the Geological Society of America (1961).
He received other awards and recognitions from LANL and many professional organizations.
He was granted a sabbatical in 1968 to pursue post-graduate studies in archaeology.
From 1951 to 1988 he was an explosives research expert and thermal analyst with the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (later called Los Alamos National Laboratory or LANL).
He was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1941 and elected to work at Princeton University, but on 8th December, 1941, this Fellowship was interrupted for war work on America's entry into World War II, and Libby went to Columbia University on the Manhattan District Project, on leave from the Department of Chemistry, California University, till 1945. This appointment was renewed by the President for a further five-year term on 19th June, 1956, but Libby resigned from it on 30th June, 1959, to become Professor of Chemistry in the University of California at Los Angeles, being appointed Director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics on 1st January, 1962.