Two types of radiometric dating

Radiocarbon dating is normally suitable for organic materials less than 50 000 years old because beyond that time the amount of 14C becomes too small to be accurately measured.

This scheme was developed in 1937 but became more useful when mass spectrometers were improved in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The isotopes are then measured within the same machine by an attached mass spectrometer (an example of this is SIMS analysis).

This is a common dating method mainly used by archaeologists, as it can only date geologically recent organic materials, usually charcoal, but also bone and antlers.

Some techniques place the sample in a nuclear reactor first to excite the isotopes present, then measure these isotopes using a mass spectrometer (such as in the argon-argon scheme).

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These are released as radioactive particles (there are many types).

However, there is a limited range in Sm-Nd isotopes in many igneous rocks, although metamorphic rocks that contain the mineral garnet are useful as this mineral has a large range in Sm-Nd isotopes.

This technique also helps in determining the composition and evolution of the Earth's mantle and bodies in the universe.

This technique uses the same minerals and rocks as for K-Ar dating but restricts measurements to the argon isotopic system which is not so affected by metamorphic and alteration events. The decay of 147Sm to 143Nd for dating rocks began in the mid-1970s and was widespread by the early 1980s.

It is useful for dating very old igneous and metamorphic rocks and also meteorites and other cosmic fragments.

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