Radiometric Dating ( Read ) | Earth Science | CK Foundation
Geologists use radiometric dating to estimate how long ago rocks formed, and it to the quantity of stable daughter atoms in the rock, scientists can estimate the. Radiometric dating definition, any method of determining the age of earth British Dictionary definitions for radiometric dating radiometric dating in Science. Radiometric dating is used to estimate the age of rocks and other objects based on the fixed decay rate of radioactive isotopes. Definition & Facts . Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and.
Radioactive Decay The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. So, they do this by giving off radiation. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay. The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.
So, if you know the radioactive isotope found in a substance and the isotope's half-life, you can calculate the age of the substance. Half-Life So, what exactly is this thing called a half-life? Well, a simple explanation is that it is the time required for a quantity to fall to half of its starting value. So, you might say that the 'full-life' of a radioactive isotope ends when it has given off all of its radiation and reaches a point of being non-radioactive. When the isotope is halfway to that point, it has reached its half-life.
Uranium-Lead Dating There are different methods of radiometric dating that will vary due to the type of material that is being dated. For example, uranium-lead dating can be used to find the age of a uranium-containing mineral.
It works because we know the fixed radioactive decay rates of uranium, which decays to lead, and for uranium, which decays to lead At a certain temperature, the crystal structure has formed sufficiently to prevent diffusion of isotopes. This temperature is what is known as closure temperature and represents the temperature below which the mineral is a closed system to isotopes. Thus an igneous or metamorphic rock or melt, which is slowly cooling, does not begin to exhibit measurable radioactive decay until it cools below the closure temperature.
The age that can be calculated by radiometric dating is thus the time at which the rock or mineral cooled to closure temperature. This field is known as thermochronology or thermochronometry. The age is calculated from the slope of the isochron line and the original composition from the intercept of the isochron with the y-axis.
The equation is most conveniently expressed in terms of the measured quantity N t rather than the constant initial value No. The above equation makes use of information on the composition of parent and daughter isotopes at the time the material being tested cooled below its closure temperature. 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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 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. Radiometric dating Inshortly after the discovery of radioactivitythe American chemist Bertram Boltwood suggested that lead is one of the disintegration products of uranium, in which case the older a uranium-bearing mineral the greater should be its proportional part of lead.
Analyzing specimens whose relative geologic ages were known, Boltwood found that the ratio of lead to uranium did indeed increase with age. After estimating the rate of this radioactive change, he calculated that the absolute ages of his specimens ranged from million to 2. Though his figures were too high by about 20 percent, their order of magnitude was enough to dispose of the short scale of geologic time proposed by Lord Kelvin.
Versions of the modern mass spectrometer were invented in the early s and s, and during World War II the device was improved substantially to help in the development of the atomic bomb. Soon after the war, Harold C. Wasserburg applied the mass spectrometer to the study of geochronology. This device separates the different isotopes of the same element and can measure the variations in these isotopic abundances to within one part in 10, By determining the amount of the parent and daughter isotopes present in a sample and by knowing their rate of radioactive decay each radioisotope has its own decay constantthe isotopic age of the sample can be calculated.
For dating minerals and rocks, investigators commonly use the following couplets of parent and daughter isotopes: The SHRIMP Sensitive High Resolution Ion Microprobe enables the accurate determination of the uranium-lead age of the mineral zircon, and this has revolutionized the understanding of the isotopic age of formation of zircon-bearing igneous granitic rocks.
Another technological development is the ICP-MS Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometerwhich is able to provide the isotopic age of the minerals zircon, titanite, rutile, and monazite. These minerals are common to many igneous and metamorphic rocks. Such techniques have had an enormous impact on scientific knowledge of Earth history because precise dates can now be obtained on rocks in all orogenic mountain belts ranging in age from the early Archean about 4 billion years old to the early Neogene roughly 20 million years old.
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The oldest known rocks on Earth, estimated at 4. A radiometric dating technique that measures the ratio of the rare earth elements neodymium and samarium present in a rock sample was used to produce the estimate.
Also, by extrapolating backward in time to a situation when there was no lead that had been produced by radiogenic processes, a figure of about 4. This figure is of the same order as ages obtained for certain meteorites and lunar rocks.