Radiometric dating - Wikipedia
Radiocarbon dating was the first chronometric technique widely available to on the presence of fossils or stratigraphic position, 14C dating provided an easy and However, as with any dating technique there are limits to the kinds of things. Apparent ages obtained in geochronometry are referred to as radiometric or isotope dates. Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally . They are laterally extensive and cross facies boundaries, thus providing. Radiocarbon, or Carbon, dating is probably one of the most widely used and best a means of dating deposits independent of artifacts and local stratigraphic sequences. There are a number of limitations, however.
This is well-established for most isotopic systems. Plotting an isochron is used to solve the age equation graphically and calculate the age of the sample and the original composition. Modern dating methods[ edit ] Radiometric dating has been carried out since when it was invented by Ernest Rutherford as a method by which one might determine the age of the Earth. In the century since then the techniques have been greatly improved and expanded. The mass spectrometer was invented in the s and began to be used in radiometric dating in the s.
It operates by generating a beam of ionized atoms from the sample under test. The ions then travel through a magnetic field, which diverts them into different sampling sensors, known as " Faraday cups ", depending on their mass and level of ionization.
On impact in the cups, the ions set up a very weak current that can be measured to determine the rate of impacts and the relative concentrations of different atoms in the beams. Uranium—lead dating method[ edit ] Main article: Uranium—lead dating A concordia diagram as used in uranium—lead datingwith data from the Pfunze BeltZimbabwe.
This scheme has been refined to the point that the error margin in dates of rocks can be as low as less than two million years in two-and-a-half billion years.
Zircon has a very high closure temperature, is resistant to mechanical weathering and is very chemically inert. Zircon also forms multiple crystal layers during metamorphic events, which each may record an isotopic age of the event. This can be seen in the concordia diagram, where the samples plot along an errorchron straight line which intersects the concordia curve at the age of the sample.
Samarium—neodymium dating method[ edit ] Main article: Samarium—neodymium dating This involves the alpha decay of Sm to Nd with a half-life of 1. Accuracy levels of within twenty million years in ages of two-and-a-half billion years are achievable.
Potassium—argon dating This involves electron capture or positron decay of potassium to argon Potassium has a half-life of 1. Rubidium—strontium dating method[ edit ] Main article: Rubidium—strontium dating This is based on the beta decay of rubidium to strontiumwith a half-life of 50 billion years. This scheme is used to date old igneous and metamorphic rocksand has also been used to date lunar samples.
Closure temperatures are so high that they are not a concern. Rubidium-strontium dating is not as precise as the uranium-lead method, with errors of 30 to 50 million years for a 3-billion-year-old sample. Uranium—thorium dating method[ edit ] Main article: Uranium—thorium dating A relatively short-range dating technique is based on the decay of uranium into thorium, a substance with a half-life of about 80, years.Radioactive Dating
It is accompanied by a sister process, in which uranium decays into protactinium, which has a half-life of 32, years. While uranium is water-soluble, thorium and protactinium are not, and so they are selectively precipitated into ocean-floor sedimentsfrom which their ratios are measured.
The scheme has a range of several hundred thousand years. A related method is ionium—thorium datingwhich measures the ratio of ionium thorium to thorium in ocean sediment. Radiocarbon dating method[ edit ] Main article: Carbon is a radioactive isotope of carbon, with a half-life of 5, years,   which is very short compared with the above isotopes and decays into nitrogen. Carbon, though, is continuously created through collisions of neutrons generated by cosmic rays with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere and thus remains at a near-constant level on Earth.
The carbon ends up as a trace component in atmospheric carbon dioxide CO2. A carbon-based life form acquires carbon during its lifetime. Plants acquire it through photosynthesisand animals acquire it from consumption of plants and other animals. When an organism dies, it ceases to take in new carbon, and the existing isotope decays with a characteristic half-life years.
The proportion of carbon left when the remains of the organism are examined provides an indication of the time elapsed since its death. This makes carbon an ideal dating method to date the age of bones or the remains of an organism. The carbon dating limit lies around 58, to 62, years.
However, local eruptions of volcanoes or other events that give off large amounts of carbon dioxide can reduce local concentrations of carbon and give inaccurate dates. The releases of carbon dioxide into the biosphere as a consequence of industrialization have also depressed the proportion of carbon by a few percent; conversely, the amount of carbon was increased by above-ground nuclear bomb tests that were conducted into the early s.
Also, an increase in the solar wind or the Earth's magnetic field above the current value would depress the amount of carbon created in the atmosphere. Fission track dating method[ edit ] Main article: This involves inspection of a polished slice of a material to determine the density of "track" markings left in it by the spontaneous fission of uranium impurities.
The uranium content of the sample has to be known, but that can be determined by placing a plastic film over the polished slice of the material, and bombarding it with slow neutrons. This causes induced fission of U, as opposed to the spontaneous fission of U. The fission tracks produced by this process are recorded in the plastic film.
The uranium content of the material can then be calculated from the number of tracks and the neutron flux.
This scheme has application over a wide range of geologic dates. For dates up to a few million years micastektites glass fragments from volcanic eruptionsand meteorites are best used.
Geochronometry | Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy
Older materials can be dated using zirconapatitetitaniteepidote and garnet which have a variable amount of uranium content. The technique has potential applications for detailing the thermal history of a deposit. The residence time of 36Cl in the atmosphere is about 1 week.
- Radiometric dating
First, the size of the archaeological sample is important. Larger samples are better, because purification and distillation remove some matter. Although new techniques for working with very small samples have been developed, like accelerator dating, these are very expensive and still somewhat experimental.
Second, great care must be taken in collecting and packing samples to avoid contamination by more recent carbon. For each sample, clean trowels should be used, to avoid cross contamination between samples. The samples should be packaged in chemically neutral materials to avoid picking up new C from the packaging. The packaging should also be airtight to avoid contact with atmospheric C Also, the stratigraphy should be carefully examined to determine that a carbon sample location was not contaminated by carbon from a later or an earlier period.
Third, because the decay rate is logarithmic, radiocarbon dating has significant upper and lower limits. It is not very accurate for fairly recent deposits. In recent deposits so little decay has occurred that the error factor the standard deviation may be larger than the date obtained. The practical upper limit is about 50, years, because so little C remains after almost 9 half-lives that it may be hard to detect and obtain an accurate reading, regardless of the size of the sample.
Fourth, the ratio of C to C in the atmosphere is not constant. Although it was originally thought that there has always been about the same ratio, radiocarbon samples taken and cross dated using other techniques like dendrochronology have shown that the ratio of C to C has varied significantly during the history of the Earth.
This variation is due to changes in the intensity of the cosmic radation bombardment of the Earth, and changes in the effectiveness of the Van Allen belts and the upper atmosphere to deflect that bombardment.
For example, because of the recent depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere, we can expect there to be more C in the atmosphere today than there was years ago. To compensate for this variation, dates obtained from radiocarbon laboratories are now corrected using standard calibration tables developed in the past years.