Uranium thorium lead dating method
Decay routes[ edit ] The above uranium to lead decay routes occur via a series of alpha and beta decays, in which U with daughter nuclides undergo total eight alpha and six beta decays whereas U with daughters only experience seven alpha and four beta decays. The term U—Pb dating normally implies the coupled use of both decay schemes in the 'concordia diagram' see below. However, use of a single decay scheme usually U to Pb leads to the U—Pb isochron dating method, analogous to the rubidium—strontium dating method. Finally, ages can also be determined from the U—Pb system by analysis of Pb isotope ratios alone. This is termed the lead—lead dating method. Clair Cameron Patterson , an American geochemist who pioneered studies of uranium—lead radiometric dating methods, is famous for having used it to obtain one of the earliest estimates of the age of the Earth.
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Clocks in the Rocks
Both isotopes are the starting points for complex decay series that eventually produce stable isotopes of lead. Uranium-lead dating was applied initially to uranium minerals, e. The amount of radiogenic lead from all these methods must be distinguished from naturally occurring lead, and this is calculated by using the ratio with Pb, which is a stable isotope of the element then, after correcting for original lead, if the mineral has remained in a closed system, the U: If this is the case, they are concordant and the age determined is most probably the actual age of the specimen. If the ages determined using these two methods do not agree, then they do not fall on this curve and are therefore discordant.
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While there are numerous natural processes that can serve as clocks, there are also many natural processes that can reset or scramble these time-dependent processes and introduce uncertainties. To try to set a reasonable bound on the age, we could presume that the Earth formed at the same time as the rest of the solar system. If the small masses that become meteorites are part of that system, then a measurement of the solidification time of those meteorites gives an estimate of the age of the Earth. The following illustration points to a scenario for developing such an age estimate. Some of the progress in finding very old samples of rock on the Earth are summarized in the following comments.
See Article History Alternative Title: The important characteristic of common lead is that it contains no significant proportion of radiogenic lead accumulated since the time that the mineral or rock phase was formed. Of the four isotopes of lead, two are formed from the uranium isotopes and one is formed from the thorium isotope; only lead is not known to have any long-lived radioactive progenitor. Primordial lead is thought to have been formed by stellar nuclear reactions, released to space by supernovae explosions, and incorporated within the dust cloud that constituted the primordial solar system; the troilite iron sulfide phase of iron meteorites contains lead that approximates the primordial composition.
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