Argon Geochronology Methods
Mar 9, Learn how potassium-argon isotopic dating works and how it is Given careful work in the field and in the lab, these assumptions can be met. Potassium–argon dating is based on measur- ing the decay of If this equation is solved for t, it allows the age of a . The method does not work well on meta-. The K-Ar dating technique was one of the earliest isotope dating techniques, developed Turner were working on neutron irradiated meteorite samples using the I-Xe dating . Combining Equations (3) and (4) for a sample of age t yields.
Go Back Argon-Argon Dating and the Chicxulub Impact In the early s there was an intense controversy about the association of the Chicxulub Crater of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula with the extinction of the dinosaurs in the period about 65 million years ago.
The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in the geological age scale was associated with an iridium-rich layer which suggested that the layer was caused by an impact with an extraterrestrial object. Because that time period, commonly referred to as the K-T boundary, was associated with the extinction of vast numbers of animals in the fossil record, much effort was devoted to dating it with potassium-argon and other methods of geochronology.
The time of 65 million years was associated with the K-T boundary from these studies. Other large impact craters such as the Manson crater in Iowa dated to 74 My were examined carefully as candidates for the cause of the extinction, but none were close to the critical time. Chicxulub was not so obvious as a candidate because much of the evidence for it was under the sea.
More attention was directed to the Yucatan location after published work by Alan Hildebrand in demonstrated the chemical similarity of Chicxulub core samples with material found distributed in the K-T boundary layer. Carl Swisher organized a team to produce three independent measurements of the age of intact glass beads from the C-1 core drill site in the Chicxulub impact area.
The measurements were done by the argon-argon method. Even this extraordinary matching with the age of the K-T boundary was insufficient to convince many geologists.PL1_DATING_POTASSIUM ARGON
The decay constants of 40K are accurately known. Argon loss and excess argon are two common problems that may cause erroneous ages to be determined. Excess argon may be derived from the mantle, as bubbles trapped in a melt, in the case of a magma. Both techniques rely on the measurement of a daughter isotope 40Ar and a parent isotope. Because the relative abundances of the potassium isotopes are known, the 39ArK produced from 39K by a fast neutron reaction can be used as a proxy for potassium.
Instead, the ratios of the different argon isotopes are measured, yielding more precise and accurate results.
The amount of 39ArK produced in any given irradiation will be dependant on the amount of 39K present initially, the length of the irradiation, the neutron flux density and the neutron capture cross section for 39K.
However, because each of these parameters is difficult to determine independantly, a mineral standard, or monitor, of known age is irradiated with the samples of unknown age.
Clocks in the Rocks
The monitor flux can then be extrapolated to the samples, thereby determining their flux. This flux is known as the 'J' and can be determined by the following equation: In addition to 39Ar production from 39K, several other 'interference' reactions occur during irradiation of the samples.
Other isotopes of argon are produced from potassium, calcium, argon and chlorine. As the table above illustrates, several "undesirable" reactions occur on isotopes present within every geologic sample.
These reactor produced isotopes of argon must be corrected for in order to determine an accurate age. The monitoring of the interfering reactions is performed through the use of laboratory salts and glasses. For example, to determine the amount of reactor produced 40Ar from 40K, potassium-rich glass is irradiated with the samples. The desirable production of 38Ar from 37Cl allows us to determine how much chlorine is present in our samples.
Multiple argon extractions can be performed on a sample in several ways.
Step-heating is the most common way and involves either a furnace or a laser to uniformily heat the sample to evolve argon. The individual ages from each heating step are then graphically plotted on an age spectrum or an isochron. Mechanical crushing is also a technique capable of releasing argon from a single sample in multiple steps.
Laser probes also allow multiple ages to be determined on a single sample aliquot, but do so using accurate and precise spatial control. For example, laser spot sizes of microns or less allow a user to extract multiple argon samples from across a small mica or feldspar grain. The results from a laser probe can be plotted in several graphical ways, including a map of a grain showing lateral argon distribution. Total fusion is performed using a laser and results are commonly plotted on probability distribution diagrams or ideograms.