# What can radioactive dating be used for

If three different strontium-containing minerals form at the same time in the same magma, each strontium containing mineral will have the same ratios of the different strontium nuclides, since all strontium nuclides behave the same chemically. The final decay product, lead Pb , is stable and can no longer undergo spontaneous radioactive decay. The uranium content of the sample has to be known, but that can be determined by placing a plastic film over the polished slice of the material, and bombarding it with slow neutrons. In the century since then the techniques have been greatly improved and expanded. The ratio of calcium formed to argon formed is fixed and known.

The above equation makes use of information on the composition of parent and daughter isotopes at the time the material being tested cooled below its closure temperature. This scheme has been refined to the point that the error margin in dates of rocks can be as low as less than two million years in two-and-a-half billion years. This makes carbon an ideal dating method to date the age of bones or the remains of an organism. Alternatively, if several different minerals can be dated from the same sample and are assumed to be formed by the same event and were in equilibrium with the reservoir when they formed, they should form an isochron. K40 can decay in two different ways: Additionally, elements may exist in different isotopes , with each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus. In addition to the ages of Earth, Moon, and meteorites, radiometric dating has been used to determine ages of fossils, including early man, timing of glaciations, ages of mineral deposits, recurrence rates of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the history of reversals of Earth's magnetic field, and the age and duration of a wide variety of other geological events and processes. When an organism dies, it ceases to take in new carbon, and the existing isotope decays with a characteristic half-life years. So, they do this by giving off radiation. Accuracy levels of within twenty million years in ages of two-and-a-half billion years are achievable. Many isotopes have been studied, probing a wide range of time scales. For example, with potassium-argon dating, we can tell the age of materials that contain potassium because we know that potassium decays into argon with a half-life of 1. The uranium to lead decay series is marked by a half-life of million years. Different methods of radiometric dating can be used to estimate the age of a variety of natural and even man-made materials. Any argon present in a mineral containing potassium must have been formed as the result of radioactive decay. Thus, we have a different element, 14C. Radioactive elements "decay" that is, change into other elements by "half lives. For dates up to a few million years micas , tektites glass fragments from volcanic eruptions , and meteorites are best used. Finally, correlation between different isotopic dating methods may be required to confirm the age of a sample. However, if strontium 87 was present in the mineral when it was first formed from molten magma, that amount will be shown by an intercept of the isochron lines on the y-axis, as shown in Fig Radioactive elements decay by half-lives. Thus an igneous or metamorphic rock or melt, which is slowly cooling, does not begin to exhibit measurable radioactive decay until it cools below the closure temperature. So, if you know the radioactive isotope found in a substance and the isotope's half-life, you can calculate the age of the substance. For example, uranium-lead dating can be used to find the age of a uranium-containing mineral. Thus, as an event marker of s water in soil and ground water, 36Cl is also useful for dating waters less than 50 years before the present. Uranium—thorium dating method[ edit ] Main article:

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