What is uranium dating

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With 238U the Pb/U ratio grows much more slowly with age, but the idea is the same.If you took rocks of all ages and plotted their two Pb/U ratios from their two isotope pairs against each other on a graph, the points would form a beautiful line called a concordia (see the example in the right column).In a 704-million-year-old rock, 235U is at its half-life and there will be an equal number of 235U and 207Pb atoms (the Pb/U ratio is 1).In a rock twice as old there will be one 235U atom left for every three 207Pb atoms (Pb/U = 3), and so forth.Lead atoms created by uranium decay are trapped in the crystal and build up in concentration with time.

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.

Of all the isotopic dating methods in use today, the uranium-lead method is the oldest and, when done carefully, the most reliable.

Unlike any other method, uranium-lead has a natural cross-check built into it that shows when nature has tampered with the evidence.

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).

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