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Posted by / 23-Apr-2020 16:14

Radiometric dating uranium

Lead atoms created by uranium decay are trapped in the crystal and build up in concentration with time.

If nothing disturbs the grain to release any of this radiogenic lead, dating it is straightforward in concept.

Uranium comes in two common isotopes with atomic weights of 235 and 238 (we'll call them 235U and 238U).

Both are unstable and radioactive, shedding nuclear particles in a cascade that doesn't stop until they become lead (Pb).

But now imagine that some geologic event disturbs things to make the lead escape.

That would take the zircons on a straight line back to zero on the concordia diagram.

Radiometric dating is largely done on rock that has formed from solidified lava.

Lava (properly called magma before it erupts) fills large underground chambers called magma chambers.

The results from these zircons therefore plot along that straight line, establishing what is called a discordia. If a 1500-million-year-old rock is disturbed to create a discordia, then is undisturbed for another billion years, the whole discordia line will migrate along the curve of the concordia, always pointing to the age of the disturbance.

In these cases, the concordia diagram is a valuable tool.

Consider the concordia: as zircons age, they move outward along the curve.

Most people are not aware of the many processes that take place in lava before it erupts and as it solidifies, processes that can have a tremendous influence on daughter to parent ratios.

Such processes can cause the daughter product to be enriched relative to the parent, which would make the rock look older, or cause the parent to be enriched relative to the daughter, which would make the rock look younger.

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In a 704-million-year-old rock, 235U is at its half-life and there will be an equal number of 235U and 207Pb atoms (the Pb/U ratio is 1).