Geochronology

Potassium, an alkali metal, the Earth’s eighth most abundant element is common in many rocks and rock-forming minerals. The quantity of potassium in a rock or mineral is variable proportional to the amount of silica present. Therefore, mafic rocks and minerals often contain less potassium than an equal amount of silicic rock or mineral. Potassium can be mobilized into or out of a rock or mineral through alteration processes. Due to the relatively heavy atomic weight of potassium, insignificant fractionation of the different potassium isotopes occurs. However, the 40 K isotope is radioactive and therefore will be reduced in quantity over time.

Potassium-Argon and Argon-Argon Dating of Crustal Rocks and the Problem of Excess Argon

The extensive calibration and standardization procedures undertaken ensure that the results of analytical studies carried out in our laboratories will gain immediate international credibility, enabling Brazilian students and scientists to conduct forefront research in earth and planetary sciences. Modern geochronology requires high analytical precision and accuracy, improved spatial resolution, and statistically significant data sets, requirements often beyond the capabilities of traditional geochronological methods.

The fully automated facility will provide high precision analysis on a timely basis, meeting the often rigid requirements of the mineral and oil exploration industry. We will also discuss future developments for the laboratory. The project enabled importing the most advanced technology for the implementation of this dating technique in Brazil. Funding for the acquisition of instrumentation i.

The potassium-argon (K-Ar) isotopic dating method is especially useful for determining the age of lavas. Developed in the s, it was.

The older method required splitting samples into two for separate potassium and argon measurements, while the newer method requires only one rock fragment or mineral grain and uses a single measurement of argon isotopes. The sample is generally crushed and single crystals of a mineral or fragments of rock hand-selected for analysis. These are then irradiated to produce 39 Ar from 39 K. The sample is then degassed in a high-vacuum mass spectrometer via a laser or resistance furnace.

Heating causes the crystal structure of the mineral or minerals to degrade, and, as the sample melts, trapped gases are released. The gas may include atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen, and argon, and radiogenic gases, like argon and helium, generated from regular radioactive decay over geologic time. The J factor relates to the fluence of the neutron bombardment during the irradiation process; a denser flow of neutron particles will convert more atoms of 39 K to 39 Ar than a less dense one.

However, in a metamorphic rock that has not exceeded its closure temperature the age likely dates the crystallization of the mineral.

Potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating

The first parallel application of the two geochronometers to Orgnac 3 yields generally consistent results, which point to the reliability of the two methods. The difference between their age results is discussed. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

K-Ar ages have been determined by the40Ar/39Ar total fusion technique on 19 terrestrial samples whose conventional K-Ar ages range from my to nearly.

Ar-Ar methods. This method is based on the occurrence of the radioactive isotope 40 K of potassium in rocks. This isotope decays to 40 Ca and 40 Ar, the last of which is used for K-Ar age dating as it accumulates in the rock over time. If the ratio of 40 K and 40 Ar is known, the unknown time can be calculated. The ideal model conditions may not be met due to the presence of inherited argon, loss of radiogenic argon and deformation and recrystallization of the mineral Dodson, The actual accumulation of 40 Ar in a crystal structure depends not only on the time involved, but also on diffusion behavior, the temperatures the rock has experienced since its formation, cooling rate, grain size and deformation state of the crystal McDougall and Harrison, For the application of this method to age dating it is essential to define a closure temperature.

The closure temperature range of a mineral is the temperature range over which a mineral changes from an open system to a closed system for the isotopes of interest. The most important process interfering with the accumulation of radiogenic isotopes is recrystallization, as this enhances the mobility of atoms. Thermally activated volume diffusion may play an important role in slowly cooled systems.

Potassium-argon dating

Most people envision radiometric dating by analogy to sand grains in an hourglass: the grains fall at a known rate, so that the ratio of grains between top and bottom is always proportional to the time elapsed. In principle, the potassium-argon K-Ar decay system is no different. Of the naturally occurring isotopes of potassium, 40K is radioactive and decays into 40Ar at a precisely known rate, so that the ratio of 40K to 40Ar in minerals is always proportional to the time elapsed since the mineral formed [ Note: 40K is a potassium atom with an atomic mass of 40 units; 40Ar is an argon atom with an atomic mass of 40 units].

In theory, therefore, we can estimate the age of the mineral simply by measuring the relative abundances of each isotope. Over the past 60 years, potassium-argon dating has been extremely successful, particularly in dating the ocean floor and volcanic eruptions.

A newly commissioned 40Ar/39Ar dating laboratory at the Instituto de with the expected age for the sample: younger samples, relatively poor in 40Ar*, require.

Wilkinson, Camilla M. PhD thesis The Open University. The Ar-Ar dating technique is one of the most widely applied geochronological techniques to products of silicic volcanism, which represent geologically instantaneous events, and have been used to calibrate the geological timescale, correlate stratigraphy and biostratigraphy over large areas, and assess the impact of explosive volcanic eruptions. Recent advances e. These advances have highlighted the realisation that relatively small levels of Ar contamination e.

To assess the issue of extraneous Ar, this study applied the Ar-Ar technique to a range of minerals including sanidine, plagioclase and biotite , and glass separated from the products of large-volume silicic magma systems, which have undergone repeated cycles of crystallisation and rejuvenation. The in situ study revealed variable 40 Ar E contamination of feldspar i. In other cases, in particular some Yellowstone rhyolite domes, persistent recycling of material crystal mixes including phenocrysts and antecrysts imparting an inherited Ar component , has resulted in a spread to older ages.

This signal of inheritance is also seen in U-Pb zircon ages, but this is less evident or absent in Ar-Ar ages of co-existing glass. Ar diffusion modelling and Ar-Ar data in this study suggests sanidine is more likely to yield an eruption age.

Potassium-Argon Dating Methods

However, it is well established that volcanic rocks e. If so, then the K-Ar and Ar-Ar “dating” of crustal rocks would be similarly questionable. Thus under certain conditions Ar can be incorporated into minerals which are supposed to exclude Ar when they crystallize.

Abstract. The Ar-Ar dating technique is one of the most widely applied effect on the accuracy of ages determined using the Ar-Ar technique.

Geochronology involves understanding time in relation to geological events and processes. Geochronological investigations examine rocks, minerals, fossils and sediments. Absolute and relative dating approaches complement each other. Relative age determinations involve paleomagnetism and stable isotope ratio calculations, as well as stratigraphy. Speak to a specialist. Geoscientists can learn about the absolute timing of geological events as well as rates of geological processes using radioisotopic dating methods.

These methods rely on the known rate of natural decay of a radioactive parent nuclide into a radiogenic daughter nuclide. Over time, the daughter nuclide accumulates in certain minerals. Different isotopic systems can be used to date a range of geological materials from a few million to billions of years old. The U- Th -Pb technique measures the amount of accumulated Pb, Pb and Pb relative to the amount of their remaining uranium and thorium parents in a mineral or rock.

This technique is commonly applied to minerals from igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, such as zircons and monazites, and is used to date materials up to 4. The U-series technique uses the short half-lives of uranium and thorium isotopes to date geologically young material, such as fossils, speleothems, carbonates and volcanic rocks.

This dating technique is applied to samples of just a few years, up to about , years old. The K-Ar dating technique is based on measurement of the product of the radioactive decay of an isotope of potassium K into argon Ar and is used for samples a few thousand years and older such as igneous, volcanic and metamorphic rocks.

Ar–Ar and K–Ar Dating

Western Australian Argon Isotope Facility. The Ar technique can be applied to any rocks and minerals that contain K e. Typically, we need to irradiates the sample along with known age standards with fast neutrons in the core of a nuclear reactor.

The 40ArAr method, applied to K-bearing systems (minerals or glass), and to rocks ranging in age from a few thousand years to the oldest rocks available. and Ar isotope records in minerals;; dating fault-generated and impact-related.

In the diagram below I have drawn 2 different age spectra. The bottom, green spectrum is what we would expect to see if we had an ideal sample that has no excess-Ar, and the top, blue spectrum is what we might expect if the sample contained excess-Ar in fluid inclusions. The data for each of those 7 steps is represented by one of the 7 boxes on the diagram. On an age spectrum, the ages are plotted as boxes to show how big the errors are on each step. On the green diagram I have also drawn age data points and error bars at the end of each box to help you visualise it better.

Hopefully you can see that, on the green diagram, all the ages are very similar, but on the blue diagram the first three steps give older Ar-ages. In this situation we can use all of the data to calculate a more precise age for the sample — that is represented by the dotted black line. But what if there are fluid inclusions in the sample that add excess-Ar, like we discussed in the last blog?

Well, it is quite common for these inclusions to break down and release their gas at relatively low temperatures. This means that the ages we calculate from the first few temperature steps will be older than the later steps that release gas from the crystal lattice. You can see how this typically manifests in the blue age-spectrum, where the first 3 steps have older ages than the later steps.

In this situation we can just discard the data from the steps contaminated with excess-Ar and calculate an age from the steps that give a nice flat, consistent spectrum. We call this part of the spectrum the plateau, because it is flat. So, hopefully you now know a bit more about what those strange block diagrams mean.

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