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.
Age of Earth
Age of Earth - Wikipedia
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. Until the twentieth century geologists were limited to these relative dating methods.
The older method required splitting samples into two for separate potassium and argon measurements, while the newer method requires only one rock fragment or mineral grain and uses a single measurement of argon isotopes. The sample is generally crushed and single crystals of a mineral or fragments of rock are hand-selected for analysis. These are then irradiated to produce 39 Ar from 39 K via the n-p reaction 39 K n,p 39 Ar. The sample is then degassed in a high-vacuum mass spectrometer via a laser or resistance furnace.
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.