What is uranium dating
Although zircon (Zr Si O) is most commonly used, other minerals such as monazite (see: monazite geochronology), titanite, and baddeleyite can also be used.
Where crystals such as zircon with uranium and thorium inclusions do not occur, uranium-lead dating techniques have also been applied to other minerals such as calcite/aragonite and other carbonate minerals.
The method relies on two separate decay chains, the uranium series from Pb) leads to multiple dating techniques within the overall U–Pb system.
The term U–Pb dating normally implies the coupled use of both decay schemes in the 'concordia diagram' (see below).
Since the exact rate at which uranium decays into lead is known, the current ratio of lead to uranium in a sample of the mineral can be used to reliably determine its age.
Loss (leakage) of lead from the sample will result in a discrepancy in the ages determined by each decay scheme.
This effect is referred to as discordance and is demonstrated in Figure 1.
Lead atoms created by uranium decay are trapped in the crystal and build up in concentration with time.
If nothing disturbs the grain to release any of this radiogenic lead, dating it is straightforward in concept.
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