Potassium-argon dating , method of determining the time of origin of rocks by measuring the ratio of radioactive argon to radioactive potassium in the rock. This dating method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium to radioactive argon in minerals and rocks; potassium also decays to calcium Thus, the ratio of argon and potassium and radiogenic calcium to potassium in a mineral or rock is a measure of the age of the sample. The calcium-potassium age method is seldom used, however, because of the great abundance of nonradiogenic calcium in minerals or rocks, which masks the presence of radiogenic calcium. On the other hand, the abundance of argon in the Earth is relatively small because of its escape to the atmosphere during processes associated with volcanism. The potassium-argon dating method has been used to measure a wide variety of ages.
The K/Ar system of dating does not have the diversity of geologic applications the has had either limitations of application more severe than obtain for the K/Ar.
The potassium-argon K-Ar isotopic dating method is especially useful for determining the age of lavas. Developed in the s, it was important in developing the theory of plate tectonics and in calibrating the geologic time scale. Potassium occurs in two stable isotopes 41 K and 39 K and one radioactive isotope 40 K. Potassium decays with a half-life of million years, meaning that half of the 40 K atoms are gone after that span of time.
Its decay yields argon and calcium in a ratio of 11 to The K-Ar method works by counting these radiogenic 40 Ar atoms trapped inside minerals. What simplifies things is that potassium is a reactive metal and argon is an inert gas: Potassium is always tightly locked up in minerals whereas argon is not part of any minerals. Argon makes up 1 percent of the atmosphere.
So assuming that no air gets into a mineral grain when it first forms, it has zero argon content. That is, a fresh mineral grain has its K-Ar “clock” set at zero. The method relies on satisfying some important assumptions:. Given careful work in the field and in the lab, these assumptions can be met.
Argon is a noble gas. The main isotopes of argon in terrestrial systems are 40 Ar Naturally occurring 40 K decays to stable 40 Ar Most of the argon isotope literature deals with measurement of 40 Ar for use in K-Ar age-dating of rocks. The conventional K-Ar dating method depends on the assumption that the rocks contained no argon at the time of formation and that all the subsequent radiogenic argon i.
Minerals are dated by measurement of the concentration of potassium, and the amount of radiogenic 40 Ar that has accumulated.
Some examples of isotope systems used to date geologic materials. 40K. 40Ar & 40Ca. b.y. >10, years. 87Rb. 87Sr. 48 b.y systems are most useful for radiometric dating and what are the limitations of each?
Most of the chronometric dating methods in use today are radiometric. That is to say, they are based on knowledge of the rate at which certain radioactive isotopes within dating samples decay or the rate of other cumulative changes in atoms resulting from radioactivity. Isotopes are specific forms of elements. The various isotopes of the same element differ in terms of atomic mass but have the same atomic number. In other words, they differ in the number of neutrons in their nuclei but have the same number of protons.
The spontaneous decay of radioactive elements occurs at different rates, depending on the specific isotope. These rates are stated in terms of half-lives. In other words, the change in numbers of atoms follows a geometric scale as illustrated by the graph below.
Ar–Ar and K–Ar Dating
I have just completed the data reduction on a low potassium basalt from the Medicine Lake, California, the basalt of Tionesta. The recent development of small volume low-background noble gas extraction systems and low-background high-sensitivity mass spectrometers have improved our ability to more accurately and precisely date geologic events.
However, the dating of Quaternary, low potassium rocks continues to test the limits of the method because of small quantities of radiogenic argon and large atmospheric argon contamination.
This demonstrates the effectiveness of the K/Ar method to date accu- rately volcanic Range of Applications and Limitations of 40K in the deep Earth is.
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.
The Problem of Contamination in Obtaining Accurate Dates of Young Geologic Rocks
Petrology Tulane University Prof. Stephen A. Nelson Radiometric Dating Prior to the best and most accepted age of the Earth was that proposed by Lord Kelvin based on the amount of time necessary for the Earth to cool to its present temperature from a completely liquid state. Although we now recognize lots of problems with that calculation, the age of 25 my was accepted by most physicists, but considered too short by most geologists. Then, in , radioactivity was discovered.
Native gold mainly occurs as inclusions within pyrite and quartz. In this study, we analysed quartz crystals coeval with gold precipitation from two different types of mineralization using the ArgusVI multi-collector noble gas mass spectrometer by the stepwise crushing technique to resolve the timing and genesis of gold mineralization.
Potassium-Argon Dating Methods
The purpose of this noble gas investigation was to evaluate the possibility of measuring noble gases in martian rocks and air by future robotic missions such as the Mars Science Laboratory MSL. Here we suggest the possibility of K-Ar age dating based on noble gas release of martian rocks by conducting laboratory simulation experiments on terrestrial basalts and martian meteorites.
We provide requirements for the SAM instrument to obtain adequate noble gas abundances and compositions within the current SAM instrumental operating conditions, especially, a power limit that prevents heating the furnace above approx.
U-Th-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar dating methods have emerged as the primary tools for calibrating most of Earth history. to understand better the uses and limitations of radiometric dating methods in Gallagher, K., Brown, R., and Johnson, C.,
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. K-Ar ages increase away from spreading ridges, just as we might expect, and recent volcanic eruptions yield very young dates, while older volcanic rocks yield very old dates.
Though we know that K-Ar dating works and is generally quite accurate, however, the method does have several limitations. First of all, the dating technique assumes that upon cooling, potassium-bearing minerals contain a very tiny amount of argon an amount equal to that in the atmosphere. While this assumption holds true in the vast majority of cases, excess argon can occasionally be trapped in the mineral when it crystallizes, causing the K-Ar model age to be a few hundred thousand to a few million years older than the actual cooling age.
Secondly , K-Ar dating assumes that very little or no argon or potassium was lost from the mineral since it formed.