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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 By comparing the proportion of K to Ar in a sample of volcanic rock, and knowing the decay rate what can potassium argon dating be used for K, the date that the rock formed can be determined. How Does the Reaction Work? Potassium K is one of the most abundant elements in the Earth's crust 2.
Potassium-argon datingmethod of determining the time of origin of rocks by measuring the ratio of radioactive argon to radioactive potassium in the rock. This dating method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium to radioactive argon in minerals and rocks; potassium also decays to calcium Thus, the ratio of argon and potassium and radiogenic calcium to potassium in a mineral or rock is a measure of the what can potassium argon dating be used for of the sample. The calcium-potassium age method is seldom used, however, because of the great abundance of nonradiogenic calcium in minerals or rocks, which masks the presence of radiogenic calcium. On the other hand, the abundance of argon in the Earth is relatively small because of its escape to the atmosphere during processes associated with volcanism. The potassium-argon dating method has been used to measure a wide variety of ages.
What can potassium argon dating be used for
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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 what can potassium argon dating be used for theory of plate tectonics and in calibrating the geologic time scale. Potassium occurs in two stable isotopes 41 K and 39 K and one radioactive isotope 40 K. Potassium decays with a half-life of million years, meaning that half of the 40 K atoms are gone after that span of time. Its decay yields argon and calcium in a ratio of 11 to The K-Ar method works by counting these radiogenic 40 Ar atoms trapped inside minerals. What simplifies things is that potassium is a reactive metal and argon is an inert gas: Potassium is always tightly locked up in minerals whereas argon is not part of any minerals.
The attraction of the method lies in the fact that one of the daughter elements is argon which is an inert gas. This means that the geologist can plausibly assume that all argon gas what can potassium argon dating be used for from the molten magma while it is still liquid. He thinks this solves his problem of not knowing the initial quantity of the daughter element in the past and not being able to go back in time and make measurements. He assumes the initial argon content is zero. He assumes that any argon that he measures in his rock sample must have been produced by the radioactive decay of potassium since the time the rock solidified.