Since the early twentieth century scientists have found ways to accurately measure geological time. The discovery of radioactivity in uranium by the French physicist, Henri Becquerel , in paved the way of measuring absolute time. Shortly after Becquerel’s find, Marie Curie , a French chemist, isolated another highly radioactive element, radium. The realisation that radioactive materials emit rays indicated a constant change of those materials from one element to another. The New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford , suggested in that the exact age of a rock could be measured by means of radioactivity. For the first time he was able to exactly measure the age of a uranium mineral. When Rutherford announced his findings it soon became clear that Earth is millions of years old. These scientists and many more after them discovered that atoms of uranium, radium and several other radioactive materials are unstable and disintegrate spontaneously and consistently forming atoms of different elements and emitting radiation, a form of energy in the process.
Potassium-Argon Dating Methods
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Potassium-Argon Dating: Principles, Techniques, and Applications to Geochronology. By G. BRENT DALRYMPLE and MARVIN A. LAN-. PHERE. San Francisco.
The potassium-argon K-Ar dating method is probably the most widely used technique for determining the absolute ages of crustal geologic events and processes. It is used to determine the ages of formation and thermal histories of potassium-bearing rocks and minerals of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary origin, as well as extraterrestrial meteorites and lunar rocks. The K-Ar method is among the oldest of the geochronological methods; it successfully produces reliable absolute ages of geologic materials.
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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.
2. limitations of dendrochronology. B. Radiometric techniques. 1. the principle of atomic decay. 2. radiocarbon, potassium-argon. C. Radiocarbon dating.
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 potassium-argon age of some meteorites is as old as 4,,, years, and volcanic rocks as young as 20, years old have been measured by this method.
Potassium-argon dating. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica’s editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History. Read More on This Topic.
Dating Rocks and Fossils Using Geologic Methods
Potassium-Argon Dating Potassium-Argon dating is the only viable technique for dating very old archaeological materials. Geologists have used this method to date rocks as much as 4 billion years old. It is based on the fact that some of the radioactive isotope of Potassium, Potassium K ,decays to the gas Argon as Argon Ar
First results in an extensive programme in potassium-argon dating at Berkeley arc reported. Ultra-high-vacuum techniques have been incorporated in the argon.
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. But, for the purposes of the KAr dating system, the relative abundance of 40 K is so small and its half-life is so long that its ratios with the other Potassium isotopes are considered constant. Argon, a noble gas, constitutes approximately 0.
Because it is present within the atmosphere, every rock and mineral will have some quantity of Argon. Argon can mobilized into or out of a rock or mineral through alteration and thermal processes. Like Potassium, Argon cannot be significantly fractionated in nature. However, 40 Ar is the decay product of 40 K and therefore will increase in quantity over time.
Potassium-argon dating method
Evernden, G. Curtis, J. AAPG Bulletin ; 41 9 : — The solutions of a great many geological problems await only the accurate determinations of dates of some of the events or processes that are involved in them. Delays in obtaining such data have been due to the lack of a dating technique applicable to the large diversity of geological settings.
Potassium-argon dating. Principles, Techniques and Applications to Geochronology. (A Series of Books in Geology, Ed. Gilluly J. & A. O. Woodford). xiv + p.
An absolute dating technique similar to radiocarbon dating but applicable to much older deposits. It is used to determine the age of volcanic rock strata containing or sealing archaeological objects rather than to date the artefacts themselves. In volcanic rocks any argon present will have escaped when the rock was last molten but will start to accumulate again when it solidifies. Thus by carefully measuring the amount of 40 K and 40 Ar present in a sample it is possible to work out how long ago it was that the rock solidified.
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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.
EXPERIMENTAL METHODS. The dating techniques by the K-Ar method used at the CENTRO DE PESQUISAS GEOCRONOLOGICAS of t he Uni versity of Sao.
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Despite seeming like a relatively stable place, the Earth’s surface has changed dramatically over the past 4. Mountains have been built and eroded, continents and oceans have moved great distances, and the Earth has fluctuated from being extremely cold and almost completely covered with ice to being very warm and ice-free.
These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth’s surface is moving and changing. As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils. A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.
However, by itself a fossil has little meaning unless it is placed within some context. The age of the fossil must be determined so it can be compared to other fossil species from the same time period. Understanding the ages of related fossil species helps scientists piece together the evolutionary history of a group of organisms.
For example, based on the primate fossil record, scientists know that living primates evolved from fossil primates and that this evolutionary history took tens of millions of years.