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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.

The long half-life of 40 K allows the method to be used to calculate the absolute age of samples older than a few thousand years. The quickly cooled lavas that make nearly ideal samples for K-Ar dating also preserve a record of the direction and intensity of the local magnetic field as the sample cooled past the Curie temperature of iron.

Nov 13, In order to determine how old the Earth is, these scientists use a technique called potassium-argon dating (K-AR). A particular isotope of potassium, K, undergoes a decay process and eventually becomes an argon isotope, Ar It is reasonable to ask if the K-Ar test is accurate before we accept its results as accurate. Potassium-argon dating definition, a method for estimating the age of a mineral or rock, based on measurement of the rate of decay of radioactive potassium into argon. See more. 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.

The geomagnetic polarity time scale was calibrated largely using K-Ar dating. The 40 K isotope is radioactive; it decays with a half-life of 1.

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. Since the argon will escape if the rock is melted, the dates obtained are to the last molten time for the rock. How potassium-argon dating works Published: 24 June (GMT+10) Photo Wikipedia by Tas Walker. One of the most widely used dating methods is the potassium-argon method, which has been applied to 'dating' rocks for decades, especially igneous rocks that have solidified from molten magma. 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).

Conversion to stable 40 Ca occurs via electron emission beta decay in Conversion to stable 40 Ar occurs via electron capture in the remaining Argon, being a noble gasis a minor component of most rock samples of geochronological interest: It does not bind with other atoms in a crystal lattice.

When 40 K decays to 40 Ar ; the atom typically remains trapped within the lattice because it is larger than the spaces between the other atoms in a mineral crystal.

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Entrained argon - diffused argon that fails to escape from the magma - may again become trapped in crystals when magma cools to become solid rock again.

After the recrystallization of magma, more 40 K will decay and 40 Ar will again accumulate, along with the entrained argon atoms, trapped in the mineral crystals.

Measurement of the quantity of 40 Ar atoms is used to compute the amount of time that has passed since a rock sample has solidified. Despite 40 Ca being the favored daughter nuclide, it is rarely useful in dating because calcium is so common in the crust, with 40 Ca being the most abundant isotope.

Thus, the amount of calcium originally present is not known and can vary enough to confound measurements of the small increases produced by radioactive decay. The ratio of the amount of 40 Ar to that of 40 K is directly related to the time elapsed since the rock was cool enough to trap the Ar by the equation.

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potassium-argon dating A dating technique for certain rocks that depends on the decay of the radioisotope potassium to argon, a process with a half-life of about ? 10 10 years. It assumes that all the argon formed in the potassium-bearing mineral accumulates within it and that all the argon present is formed by the decay of potassium- Potassium-argon dating, method of determining the time of origin of rocks by measuring the ratio of radioactive potassium in the rock. This dating method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium to radioactive argon in minerals and rocks.

In practice, each of these values may be expressed as a proportion of the total potassium present, as only relative, not absolute, quantities are required. To obtain the content ratio of isotopes 40 Ar to 40 K in a rock or mineral, the amount of Ar is measured by mass spectrometry of the gases released when a rock sample is volatilized in vacuum.

The potassium is quantified by flame photometry or atomic absorption spectroscopy.

The amount of 40 K is rarely measured directly. The amount of 40 Ar is also measured to assess how much of the total argon is atmospheric in origin. Both flame photometry and mass spectrometry are destructive tests, so particular care is needed to ensure that the aliquots used are truly representative of the sample.

Ar-Ar dating is a similar technique which compares isotopic ratios from the same portion of the sample to avoid this problem.

### K-Ar (Ar-Ar) dating

Due to the long half-life of 40 Kthe technique is most applicable for dating minerals and rocks more thanyears old. 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.

# Potassium-argon dating

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 pathwaysand 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.

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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.

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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.