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Potassium argon dating

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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. Potassium decays with a half-life of million years, meaning that half of the 40 K atoms are gone after that span of time.

SEE VIDEO BY TOPIC: A-Z of Archaeology: 'K - K-Ar Dating' (Potassium - Argon Dating)


Potassium-argon dating

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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. The assumptions made are When the radiometric clock was started, there was a negligible amount of 40 Ar in the sample.

The rock or mineral has been a closed system since the starting time. The closure of the system was rapid compared to the age being determined. Dating with 39 Ar and 40 Ar depends upon the fact that the 39 K can be bombarded with neutrons in a nuclear reactor to produce an amount of 39 Ar which is proportional to the potassium content of the sample.

The conventional potassium-argon dating process is technically difficult and usually is carried out by analyzing for potassium in one part of the sample and measuring 40 Ar in another. The Ar-Ar process can be done on the same small piece of a sample, analyzing for both gases in a mass spectrometer. The bombarding of a geological sample with neutrons produces a population of 39 Ar which is proportional to the 39 K content of the sample. The proportionality is related to the probability or " cross-section " for the nuclear interaction.

One of the complications that must be monitored is that of the production of 39 Ar by neutron scattering from the calcium content of the mineral sample. There are also complications with the atomospheric argon content and various argon contamination scenarios.

The details are best pursued in a dedicated text like McDougall and Harrison. This allows the 39 Ar population to be used as a proxy for the 40 K content of the sample to make possible the calculation of the age for the sample. This simplified conceptual treatment does not give a fair picture of the detailed design and execution of age determinations for a wide variety of types of geological samples. But it hopefully makes the point that Ar-Ar dating can take data from small samples based on mass spectrometry.

It has contributed to the vast collection of age data for earth minerals, moon samples and meteorites. 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. The team proceeded to date spherules of glass found in Haiti to provide another bit of evidence. Many pieces of glass ejecta had been found on Haiti, which is over a thousand miles from the impact point currently. But geologists project a much smaller distance between the points at the time of the impact because of measured sea floor expansion.

The Haitian spherules were measured to have age to melting of A third piece of evidence came from age measurements of shocked zircon crystals which were found in the K-T layer as far away as Colorado and Saskatchewan. Zircon has sometimes produced puzzles in radiometric dating because its melting temperature is so high that the crystals sometimes survive in hot melted minerals, giving different melt dates than the other minerals surrounding them.

But in this case the nature of zircon was an advantage. The shocked crystals were partially melted, and when measured by the uranium-lead method method gave two ages, 65 My and My. Since the crustal basement in the Yucatan area was known to have an age in the neighborhood of the older age, this gave some confirmation to the Chicxulub crater as the origin of the K-T boundary layer.

According to Frankel, this was the step that had most geologists convinced by that this impact was the source of the iridium-rich K-T boundary deposit and the extinction of the dinosaurs. The common potassium-argon dating process makes use of the decay of 40 K to 40 Ar, even though much more of the 40 K decays to 40 Ca.

The reason is that 40 Ca is common in minerals, and sorting out what fraction of that calcium came from potassium decay is not practical. Following the standard approach for decays by multiple pathways , the expression for the age from the radiogenic 40 Ca can be written Using non-radiogenic 42 Ca for comparison, the equation for an isochron can be developed.

The slope of the isochron line gives a measure of the radiometric age. Potassium-Argon Dating 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. 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.

Clocks in the Rocks. Index Frankel, "The End of the Dinosaurs". Potassium-Calcium Isochrons The common potassium-argon dating process makes use of the decay of 40 K to 40 Ar, even though much more of the 40 K decays to 40 Ca.

Potassium-Argon Dating

If you are having problems understanding concepts such as Average Nuclear binding Energy and nuclide stability; What is it that drives fission; fusion; and other nuclear reactions; Types of radioactive decay, alpha, beta, gamma, positron, and a summary of characteristics; Nuclear reactions; Nuclear equations; The use of nuclide charts to visually chart out nuclear reactions; The U decay series shown on a nuclide chart. See the Nuclear Reactions Page. If you are having problems understanding the basics of radioisotopes techniques, such as. See the introduction to Radiometric dating techniques Page. Is the prevalent view held by the majority of scientists the only plausible way of approaching the problems of time?

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.

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 By comparing the proportion of K to Ar in a sample of volcanic rock, and knowing the decay rate of K, the date that the rock formed can be determined.

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

It assumes that all the argon—40 formed in the potassium-bearing mineral accumulates within it and that all the argon present is formed by the decay of potassium— The method is effective for micas, feldspar, and some other minerals. April 29, Retrieved April 29, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. The minimum age limit for this dating method is about years. This potassium isotope has a half-life of 1. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia.

Potassium-argon dating method

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.

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.

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. Patterson et al.

potassium–argon dating

Potassium—argon dating , abbreviated K—Ar dating , is a radiometric dating method used in geochronology and archaeology. It is based on measurement of the product of the radioactive decay of an isotope of potassium K into argon Ar. Potassium is a common element found in many materials, such as micas , clay minerals , tephra , and evaporites. In these materials, the decay product 40 Ar is able to escape the liquid molten rock, but starts to accumulate when the rock solidifies recrystallizes.

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.

Potassium-Argon Dating Methods

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fossils, including hominids, as well as archaeological material that has been found in the sequence. Introduction. The potassium-argon (K-Ar) isotopie dating  by I McDougall - ‎ - ‎Cited by 2 - ‎Related articles.

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K–Ar dating

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