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Used most often for radioactive dating
Bertram Boltwood suggested that lead is one of the disintegration products of uranium, in which case the older a uranium-bearing mineral the greater should be its proportional part of lead.
Analyzing specimens whose relative geologic ages were known, Boltwood found that the ratio of lead to uranium did indeed increase with age.
Versions of the modern mass spectrometer were invented in the early 1920s and 1930s, and during World War II the device was improved substantially to help in the development of the atomic bomb. By determining the amount of the parent and daughter isotopes present in a sample and by knowing their rate of radioactive decay (each radioisotope has its own decay constant), the isotopic age of the sample can be calculated.
For dating minerals and rocks, investigators commonly use the following couplets of parent and daughter isotopes: thorium-232–lead-208, uranium-235–lead-207, samarium-147–neodymium-143, rubidium-87–strontium-87, potassium-40–argon-40, and argon-40–argon-39.
The SHRIMP (Sensitive High Resolution Ion Microprobe) enables the accurate determination of the uranium-lead age of the mineral zircon, and this has revolutionized the understanding of the isotopic age of formation of zircon-bearing igneous granitic rocks.
Another technological development is the ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer), which is able to provide the isotopic age of the minerals zircon, titanite, rutile, and monazite.
These minerals are common to many igneous and metamorphic rocks.
Such techniques have had an enormous impact on scientific knowledge of Earth history because precise dates can now be obtained on rocks in all orogenic (mountain) belts ranging in age from the early Archean (about 4 billion years old) to the early Neogene (roughly 20 million years old).The oldest known rocks on Earth, estimated at 4.28 billion years old, are the faux amphibolite volcanic deposits of the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt in Quebec, Canada.A radiometric dating technique that measures the ratio of the rare earth elements neodymium and samarium present in a rock sample was used to produce the estimate.Also, by extrapolating backward in time to a situation when there was no lead that had been produced by radiogenic processes, a figure of about 4.6 billion years is obtained for the minimum age of the Earth.This figure is of the same order as ages obtained for certain meteorites and lunar rocks.Jacobus Henricus van ’t Hoff, one of the founders of physical chemistry.Between 18 he elucidated the complex sequence of chemical reactions attending the precipitation of salts (evaporites) from the evaporation of seawater.Van ’t Hoff’s aim was to explain the succession of mineral salts present in Permian rocks of Germany.His success at producing from aqueous solutions artificial minerals and rocks like those found in natural salt deposits stimulated studies of minerals crystallizing from silicate melts simulating the magmas from which igneous rocks have formed.Working at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D. Experimental petrology, both at the low-temperature range explored by van ’t Hoff and in the high ranges of temperature investigated by Bowen, continues to provide laboratory evidence for interpreting the chemical history of sedimentary and igneous rocks.Experimental petrology also provides valuable data on the stability limits of individual metamorphic minerals and of the reactions between different minerals in a wide variety of chemical systems.