Potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating

Ajoy K. Leonardo da Vinci, ca. Herein, I set out some simple guidelines to permit readers to assess the reliability of published ages. I illustrate the use of the techniques by looking at published age data for hotspot tracks in the Atlantic Ocean the Walvis Ridge , as well as newly published ages for the British Tertiary Igneous Province. In these experiments, a sample is heated in steps of increasing laboratory extraction temperature, until all the argon is released. The resulting figure is called an age spectrum e.

Ar–Ar and K–Ar Dating

By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy , Privacy Policy , and our Terms of Service. Earth Science Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those interested in the geology, meteorology, oceanography, and environmental sciences. It only takes a minute to sign up. The Washington Post article Scientists discover hundreds of footprints left at the dawn of modern humanity describes the geological dating of stratified layers of mud by analyzing and dating minerals within each layer.

But since floods jumble materials of different origins and ages together, that meant the scientists had to date dozens of different minerals. The youngest crystal in the footprint layer would represent the oldest possible age for the prints; the oldest crystal in the layer above it would represent the youngest they could be.

The 40Ar/39Ar method of dating is a modified version of the K-Ar dating technique utilising the natural radioactive decay of 40K to 40Ar. The 40ArAr.

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. This process converts another isotope of potassium 39 K to gaseous 39 Ar. This allows the simultaneous isotopic noble gas measurement of both the parent 39 Ar K and daughter 40 Ar isotopes in the same aliquot.

The main advantage of Ar-Ar dating is that it allows much smaller samples to be dated, and more age and composition e. The extraction line is associated with a Nitrogen cryocooler trap and two AP10 and one GP50 SAES getters that altogether allow purifying the gas released by the sample during laser heating. This allows the measurement of a larger dynamic range of Ar ion beam signal on much smaller and thus likely purer and younger sample aliquots.

Their second advantage is the ability to measure the 36Ar on the CDD multiplier while other masses are measured on the faraday detectors, resulting in analytical precision one order of magnitude better than with previous generation instruments. Their third advantage is much faster sample analysis i. A new dedicated low volume Noble Gas extraction line capable of collecting and cleaning the gas extracted from a variety of samples, using a PhotonMachine CO2 laser capable of delivering a homogenous laser beam of up to 6mm wide, is attached to the ARGUS VI mass spectrometer.

Argon-40-argon-39 dating

Argon-argon dating works because potassium decays to argon with a known decay constant. However, potassium also decays to 40 Ca much more often than it decays to 40 Ar. This necessitates the inclusion of a branching ratio 9.

We assumed z30Xe and 86Kr represented trapped (tr) gas of atmospheric com- position after correcting for 23&U spon- fission (l36Xe/ l-3e Xet r °.1).

Berkeley — A powerful geologic dating technique called argon-argon dating has pegged the 79 A. With such validation, the radioactive argon dating technique now can reliably establish the age of rocks as old as the solar system or as young as 2, years, say researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Berkeley Geochronology Center. The center has used the argon-argon method to date many recent important fossil finds, from the highly touted human ancestor dubbed “Lucy” and the major Ethiopian discoveries of UC Berkeley anthropologist Tim White to Homo erectus remains from Java.

Argon-argon dating also has been used to establish the age of meteorites several billion years old, mass extinctions, climate changes and other geologic events in the last several hundred million years. The new results are published in the Aug. Renne’s co-authors are Warren D. Sharp and Alan L.

Argon–argon dating

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.

Virtual Tour Argon Lab A state of the art 40Ar/39Ar laboratory, featuring three fully automated gas extraction-mass spectrometry systems, is used for dating rocks.

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. In these early studies the vertical succession of sedimentary rocks and structures were used to date geologic units and events relatively.

In addition, faunal succession and the use of “key” diagnostic fossils were used to correlate lithologic units over wide geographic areas. Although lithologic units could be placed within a known sequence of geologic periods of roughly similar age, absolute ages, expressed in units of years, could not be assigned.

Potassium-Argon Dating

The temporal resolution of the stratigraphic record, the only account of the 4. As a consequence of the scientific pursuit to temporally dissect the geological record and decode Earth history, the NERC Argon Isotope Facility AIF was established through community demand nearly 20 years ago. For example, AIF establish dates and rates for the expansion of humans from Africa 1 , facilitates temporal integration of palaeoclimate signals to allow investigation of past global climate change 10 , determine timescales and frequencies of volcanic activity and super-eruptions to mitigate risk to the general populous 6 , reconstruct timescales of fluid-rock interaction with respect to the mineralisation of mineable resources 17 and generation of hydrocarbons

Potassium has three naturally occurring isotopes: 39K, 40K and 41K. 40K is radioactive and From an analytical perspective, K-Ar dating is a two step process.

Table A1 contains electron microprobe data for sixteen feldspar megacrysts. Data have been corrected for mass spectrometer backgrounds, discrimination, radioactive decay and interference corrections. Data have been corrected for mass spectrometer backgrounds, discrimination, and radioactive decay only. Hand-picked feldspar chips were cleaned ultrasonically in demineralised water, followed by acetone.

Electron microprobe analysis of feldspar fragments was undertaken using a Cameca SX electron microprobe at the University of Melbourne. Analyses were conducted using a defocused electron beam to avoid loss of volatile species e. F, Cl and K. Elemental data, relative to natural and synthetic mineral and elemental standards, are reported in Table A1. Following neutron irradiation and cooling, separate aliquants of the samples were prepared for in vacuo step-crushing and detailed step-heating experiments.

Step-crushing experiments were undertaken on several megacrysts to directly evaluate the isotopic composition of argon trapped in defects e. Air aliquots from an automated pipette system were analysed prior to sample analyses to monitor mass discrimination and detector bias. Samples were heated using the homogenized 6 mm beam. Taking into account the different low-temperature outgassing procedures, step-heating experiments 7—10 steps were conducted over a heating interval of either 1.

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

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.

Comparison of 40Ar–39Ar and Rb–Sr Data on Phengites from the UHP Brossasco–Isasca Unit (Dora Maira Massif, Italy): Implications for Dating White Mica.

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. The site was initially a cave with human settlement, later changed into a rock shelter, and finally became an open-air site [ 5 ] Figure 1. The depositional sequence is 11m thick.

Associated Content

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.

Both 40Ar/39Ar dating of volcanic sanidines and U/Th dating of relatively pure and dense cave calcites are known to be well established.

Different lithologies impure marble, eclogite and granitic orthogneiss sampled from a restricted area of the coesite-bearing Brossasco—Isasca Unit Dora Maira Massif have been investigated to examine the behaviour of 40 Ar— 39 Ar and Rb—Sr systems in phengites developed under ultrahigh-pressure UHP metamorphism. Mineralogical and petrological data indicate that zoned phengites record distinct segments of the P — T path: prograde, peak to early retrograde in the marble, peak to early retrograde in the eclogite, and late retrograde in the orthogneiss.

Besides major element zoning, ion microprobe analysis of phengite in the marble also reveals a pronounced zoning of trace elements including Rb and Sr. These data confirm previous reports on excess Ar and, more significantly, highlight that phengite acted as a closed system in the different lithologies and that chemical exchange, not volume diffusion, was the main factor controlling the rate of Ar transport. Although this time interval matches Ar ages from the same sample, Rb—Sr data from phengite are not entirely consistent with the whole dataset.

The oldest age obtained from a millimetre-sized grain fraction enriched in prograde—peak phengites may represent a minimum age estimate for the prograde phengite relics. Results highlight the potential of the in situ 40 Ar— 39 Ar laser technique in resolving discrete P — T stages experienced by eclogite-facies rocks provided that excess Ar is demonstrably a negligible factor , and confirm the potential of Rb—Sr internal mineral isochrons in providing precise crystallization ages for eclogite-facies mineral assemblages.

Dating eclogite-facies rocks and their subsequent retrogression at upper crustal levels represents an invaluable, essential tool for constraining the rate of exhumation of these rocks from mantle depths, thus allowing development of theoretical models. To temporally quantify geological processes, isotopic ages must be linked to a specific stage of the P — T —deformation evolution of a rock.

In the most popular approach, this link is established using the closure temperature concept T c ; Dodson, When interpreting isotopic ages in terms of temperature only, this concept has been used to derive the temperature—time path by analysing minerals with different T c. However, high-pressure HP and ultrahigh-pressure UHP metamorphic rocks are peculiar systems, which experienced extreme physical conditions characterized by limited aqueous fluids with restricted mobility, and consequently by limited mass transfer and exceedingly sluggish reaction kinetics.

In these circumstances, one cannot assume that radiogenic daughters diffusing out of a mineral are efficiently removed at the grain boundary and that the concentration of that isotope at the grain boundary is zero. Complications in the application of the closure temperature concept to natural samples thus arise from mineral complexities i.

Potassium-Argon Dating Methods

Geosphere ; 14 4 : — The Sesia zone in the Italian Western Alps is a piece of continental crust that has been subducted to eclogite-facies conditions and records a complex metamorphic history. The exact timing of events and the significance of geochronological information are debated due to the interplay of tectonic, metamorphic, and metasomatic processes.

The literature contains numerous 40Ar/39Ar “ages” that, based on statistical tests, have no geological significance. Herein, I set out some simple.

Potassium-Argon dating has the advantage that the argon is an inert gas that does not react chemically and would not be expected to be included in the solidification of a rock, so any found inside a rock is very likely the result of radioactive decay of potassium. Since the argon will escape if the rock is melted, the dates obtained are to the last molten time for the rock. Since potassium is a constituent of many common minerals and occurs with a tiny fraction of radioactive potassium, it finds wide application in the dating of mineral deposits.

The feldspars are the most abundant minerals on the Earth, and potassium is a constituent of orthoclase , one common form of feldspar. Potassium occurs naturally as three isotopes. The radioactive potassium decays by two modes, by beta decay to 40 Ca and by electron capture to 40 Ar. There is also a tiny fraction of the decay to 40 Ar that occurs by positron emission. The calcium pathway is not often used for dating since there is such an abundance of calcium in minerals, but there are some special cases where it is useful.

The decay constant for the decay to 40 Ar is 5. Even though the decay of 40 K is somewhat complex with the decay to 40 Ca and three pathways to 40 Ar, Dalrymple and Lanphere point out that potassium-argon dating was being used to address significant geological problems by the mid ‘s. The energy-level diagram below is based on data accumulated by McDougall and Harrison. For a radioactive decay which produces a single final product, the decay time can be calculated from the amounts of the parent and daughter product by.

But the decay of potassium has multiple pathways , and detailed information about each of these pathways is necessary if potassiun-argon decay is to be used as a clock. This information is typically expressed in terms of the decay constants.

Obtaining geologically meaningful Ar-40-Ar-39 ages from altered biotite

Potassium—argon dating. An absolute dating method based on the natural radioactive decay of 40 K to 40 Ar used to determine the ages of rocks and minerals on geological time scales. Argon—argon dating. A variant of the K—Ar dating method fundamentally based on the natural radioactive decay of 40 K to 40 Ar, but which uses an artificially generated isotope of argon 39 Ar produced through the neutron irradiation of naturally occurring 39 K as a proxy for 40 K.

For this reason, the K—Ar method is one of the few radiometric dating techniques in which the parent Skip to main content Skip to table of contents.

ArArCALC-software for 40Ar/39Ar age calculations. Share on. Author: Irradiation of samples for 40Ar/39Ar dating using the Geological Survey TRIGA reactor.

Lectures in Isotope Geology pp Cite as. In principle this potential has not yet been fully realized. However, basic systematics of the technique are still in the developmental stages and initial results are encouraging. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF. Skip to main content.

Potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating