Radiometric dating equation
For example, a method based on a parent isotope with a very long half-life, such as C method can only be used to determine the ages of certain types of young organic material and is useless on old granites.
Some methods work only on closed systems, whereas others work on open systems.
There are a number of long-lived radioactive isotopes used in radiometric dating, and a variety of ways they are used to determine the ages of rocks, minerals, and organic materials.
Some of the isotopic parents, end-product daughters, and half-lives involved are listed in Table 1.
Second, the rock or mineral must not lose or gain either potassium or argon from the time of its formation to the time of analysis.
It does not work well on sedimentary rocks because these rocks are composed of debris from older rocks.
It is based on the radioactivity of Ar, however, is an inert gas that escapes easily from rocks when they are heated but is trapped within the crystal structures of many minerals after a rock cools. This correction can be made very accurately and has no appreciable effect on the calculated age unless the atmospheric argon is a very large proportion of the total argon in the analysis.
The geochronologist takes this factor into account when assigning experimental errors to the calculated ages. First, there must be no argon other than that of atmospheric composition trapped in the rock or mineral when it forms.
Some of the methods have internal checks, so that the data themselves provide good evidence of reliability or lack thereof.
Commonly, a radiometric age is checked by other evidence, such as the relative order of rock units as observed in the field, age measurements based on other decay schemes, or ages on several samples from the same rock unit.The point is that not all methods are applicable to all rocks of all ages.