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Radiometric dating methods of rocks

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This technique is good for iron meteorites and the mineral molybdenite.This system is highly favoured for accurate dating of igneous and metamorphic rocks, through many different techniques.

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Its great advantage is that most rocks contain potassium, usually locked up in feldspars, clays and amphiboles.All living organisms take up carbon from their environment including a small proportion of the radioactive isotope 14C (formed from nitrogen-14 as a result of cosmic ray bombardment).The amount of carbon isotopes within living organisms reaches an equilibrium value, on death no more is taken up, and the 14C present starts to decay at a known rate.The rate of decay (given the symbol λ) is the fraction of the 'parent' atoms that decay in unit time.For geological purposes, this is taken as one year.The isotopes are then measured within the same machine by an attached mass spectrometer (an example of this is SIMS analysis).

This is a common dating method mainly used by archaeologists, as it can only date geologically recent organic materials, usually charcoal, but also bone and antlers.

This technique uses the same minerals and rocks as for K-Ar dating but restricts measurements to the argon isotopic system which is not so affected by metamorphic and alteration events. The decay of 147Sm to 143Nd for dating rocks began in the mid-1970s and was widespread by the early 1980s.

It is useful for dating very old igneous and metamorphic rocks and also meteorites and other cosmic fragments.

The relationship between the two is: T = 0.693 / λ Many different radioactive isotopes and techniques are used for dating.

All rely on the fact that certain elements (particularly uranium and potassium) contain a number of different isotopes whose half-life is exactly known and therefore the relative concentrations of these isotopes within a rock or mineral can measure the age.

However, potassium is very mobile during metamorphism and alteration, and so this technique is not used much for old rocks, but is useful for rocks of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, particularly unaltered igneous rocks.