Ar-Ar analyses cost around 00 per sample and take several weeks.
The Ar-Ar method is considered superior, but some of its problems are avoided in the older K-Ar method.
The key is to put the mineral sample in a neutron beam, which converts potassium-39 into argon-39.
Of the naturally occurring isotopes of potassium, 40K is radioactive and decays into 40Ar at a precisely known rate, so that the ratio of 40K to 40Ar in minerals is always proportional to the time elapsed since the mineral formed [ 40K is a potassium atom with an atomic mass of 40 units; 40Ar is an argon atom with an atomic mass of 40 units].This relationship is useful to geochronologists, because quite a few minerals in the Earth’s crust contain measurable quantities of potassium (e.g. In theory, therefore, we can estimate the age of the mineral simply by measuring the relative abundances of each isotope.K-Ar analyses cost several hundred dollars per sample and take a week or two.A variant of the K-Ar method gives better data by making the overall measurement process simpler.The rock samples are crushed, in clean equipment, to a size that preserves whole grains of the mineral to be dated, then sieved to help concentrate these grains of the target mineral.
The selected size fraction is cleaned in ultrasound and acid baths, then gently oven-dried.
The mineral sanidine, the high-temperature form of potassium feldspar, is the most desirable.
But micas, plagioclase, hornblende, clays and other minerals can yield good data, as can whole-rock analyses.
The potassium-argon (K-Ar) isotopic dating method is especially useful for determining the age of lavas.
Developed in the 1950s, it was important in developing the theory of plate tectonics and in calibrating the geologic time scale.
of grains between top and bottom is always proportional to the time elapsed.