The rubidium-strontium dating method is a radiometric dating technique used by scientists to determine the age of rocks and minerals from the quantities they contain of specific isotopes of rubidium 87 Rb and strontium 87 Sr, 86 Sr. Development of this process was aided by German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann , who later went on to discover nuclear fission in December The utility of the rubidium — strontium isotope system results from the fact that 87 Rb one of two naturally occurring isotopes of rubidium decays to 87 Sr with a half-life of In addition, Rb is a highly incompatible element that, during partial melting of the mantle, prefers to join the magmatic melt rather than remain in mantle minerals. As a result, Rb is enriched in crustal rocks. The radiogenic daughter, 87 Sr, is produced in this decay process and was produced in rounds of stellar nucleosynthesis predating the formation of the Solar System.
Radiometric dating calculates an age in years for geologic materials by measuring the presence of a short-life radioactive element, e. The term applies to all methods of age determination based on nuclear decay of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes. Bates and Jackson To determine the ages in years of Earth materials and the timing of geologic events such as exhumation and subduction, geologists utilize the process of radiometric decay. Geologists use these dates to further define the boundaries of the geologic periods shown on the geologic time scale. Radiometric decay occurs when the nucleus of a radioactive atom spontaneously transforms into an atomic nucleus of a different, more stable isotope.
Because the radioactive half-life of a given radioisotope is not affected by temperature, physical or chemical state, or any other influence of the environment outside the nucleus save direct particle interactions with the nucleus, then radioactive samples continue to decay at a predictable rate and can be used as a clock. This makes several types of radioactive dating feasible. For geologic dating, where the time span is on the order of the age of the earth and the methods use the clocks in the rocks , there are two main uncertainties in the dating process:. Starting with the simplest case where there are no daughter atoms present and no mass is lost from the sample, the age can be determined by measuring the relative amounts of the isotopes. This can be done by chemical means, but for precise determinations, mass spectrometry can be used.
An oversight in a radioisotope dating technique used to date everything from meteorites to geologic samples means that scientists have likely overestimated the age of many samples, according to new research from North Carolina State University. To conduct radioisotope dating, scientists evaluate the concentration of isotopes in a material. The number of protons in an atom determines which element it is, while the number of neutrons determines which isotope it is.