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uranium-lead dating

uranium-lead dating All naturally occurring uranium contains 238U and 235U (in the ratio 137.7:1). Both isotopes are the starting points for complex decay series that eventually produce stable isotopes of lead. 238U decays to 206Pb (half-life = 4510 Ma, see DECAY CONSTANT) by a process of eight alpha-decay steps and six beta-decay steps. 235U decays to 207Pb (half-life = 713 Ma) by a similar series of stages that involves seven alpha-decay steps and four beta-decay steps. Also included within this range of methods is that for thorium-lead dating (232Th to 207Pb; half-life = 13 900 Ma). Uranium-lead dating was applied initially to uranium minerals, e.g. uraninite and pitchblende, but as these are rather restricted in occurrence it is more normal to use the mineral zircon, even though the uranium is present only in trace amounts. 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 204Pb, which is a stable isotope of the element then, after correcting for original lead, if the mineral has remained in a closed system, the 235U: 207Pb and 238U: 206Pb ages should agree. If this is the case, they are concordant and the age determined is most probably the actual age of the specimen. These ratios can be plotted to produce a curve, the Concordia curve (see CONCORDIA DIAGRAM). If the ages determined using these two methods do not agree, then they do not fall on this curve and are therefore discordant. This commonly occurs if the system has been heated or otherwise disturbed, causing a loss of some of the lead daughter atoms. Because 207Pb and 206Pb are chemically identical, they are usually lost in the same proportions. The plot of the ratios will then produce a straight line below the Concordia curve. G. W. Wetherill has shown that the two points on the Concordia curve intersected by this straight line will represent the time of initial crystallization and the time of the subsequent lead loss.

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uranium–lead dating

uranium–lead dating A group of dating techniques for certain rocks that depends on the decay of the radioisotopes uranium–238 to lead–206 (half-life 4.5 × 109 years) or the decay of uranium–235 to lead–207 (half-life 7.1 × 108 years). One form of uranium–lead dating depends on measuring the ratio of the amount of helium trapped in the rock to the amount of uranium present (since the decay 238U →206Pb releases eight alpha-particles). Another method of calculating the age of the rocks is to measure the ratio of radiogenic lead (206Pb, 207Pb, and 208Pb) present to nonradiogenic lead (204Pb). These methods give reliable results for ages of the order 107–109 years.

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uranium–lead dating

uranium–lead dating A radiometric dating technique that uses the decay of 238U and 235U, which are present in all naturally occurring uranium in the ratio 137.7:1 and both of which decay to lead in stages that involve 14 steps, but are different for each isotope. 238U (half-life 4510 Ma) decays to 206Pb; 235U (half-life 713 Ma) decays to 207Pb. Thorium–lead dating, in which 232Th (half-life 13 900 Ma) decays to 207Pb, is also included in this range of dating methods.

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