Radiometric dating is

Radiometric dating uses the decay of isotopes of elements present in minerals as a measure of the age of the rock: to do this, the rate of decay must be known, the proportion of different isotopes present when the mineral formed has to be assumed, and the proportions of different isotopes present today must be measured.This dating method is principally used for determining the age of formation of igneous rocks, including volcanic units that occur within sedimentary strata.

The half-life of this decay is 11.93 billion years.In cases where particular minerals are to be dated, these are separated from the other minerals by using heavy liquids (liquids with densities similar to that of the minerals) in which some minerals will float and others sink, or magnetic separation using the different magnetic properties of minerals.The mineral concentrate may then be dissolved for isotopic or elemental analysis, except for argon isotope analysis, in which case the mineral grains are heated in a vacuum and the composition of the argon gas driven off is measured directly.A number of elements have isotopes (forms of the element that have different atomic masses) that are unstable and change by radioactive decay to the isotope of a different element.Each radioactive decay series takes a characteristic length of time known as the radioactive half-life, which is the time taken for half of the original (parent) isotope to decay to the new (daughter) isotope.

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Measurement of the concentrations of different isotopes is carried out with a mass spectrometer.

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