Sr isotope dating

Because rubidium is concentrated in crustal rocks, the continents have a much higher abundance of the daughter isotope strontium-87 compared with the stable isotopes.

This relative abundance is expressed as the Sr ratio, where strontium-86 is chosen to represent the stable isotopes strontium-88, strontium-86, and strontium-84, which occur in constant proportions in natural materials.

For example, consider the case of a simple igneous rock such as a granite that contains several major Sr-bearing minerals including plagioclase feldspar, K-feldspar, hornblende, biotite, and muscovite.

If these minerals crystallized from the same silicic melt, each mineral had the same initial Sr as the parent melt.

Each of these minerals has a different initial rubidium/strontium ratio dependent on their potassium content, the concentration of Rb and K in the melt and the temperature at which the minerals formed.

Rubidium substitutes for potassium within the lattice of minerals at a rate proportional to its concentration within the melt.

A ratio for average continental crust of about 0.72 has been determined by measuring strontium from clamshells from the major river systems.

The only problem is that we only know the number of daughter atoms now present, and some of those may have been present prior to the start of our clock. The reason for this is that Rb has become distributed unequally through the Earth over time.

We can see how do deal with this if we take a particular case. For example the amount of Rb in mantle rocks is generally low, i.e. The mantle thus has a low If these two independent dates are the same, we say they are concordant.

Thus, if we start out with 1 gram of the parent isotope, after the passage of 1 half-life there will be 0.5 gram of the parent isotope left.

After the passage of two half-lives only 0.25 gram will remain, and after 3 half lives only 0.125 will remain etc.

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