Decay routes[ edit ] The above uranium to lead decay routes occur via a series of alpha and beta decays, in which U with daughter nuclides undergo total eight alpha and six beta decays whereas U with daughters only experience seven alpha and four beta decays. The term U—Pb dating normally implies the coupled use of both decay schemes in the ‘concordia diagram’ see below. However, use of a single decay scheme usually U to Pb leads to the U—Pb isochron dating method, analogous to the rubidium—strontium dating method. Finally, ages can also be determined from the U—Pb system by analysis of Pb isotope ratios alone. This is termed the lead—lead dating method. Clair Cameron Patterson , an American geochemist who pioneered studies of uranium—lead radiometric dating methods, is famous for having used it to obtain one of the earliest estimates of the age of the Earth. Mineralogy[ edit ] Although zircon ZrSiO4 is most commonly used, other minerals such as monazite see: Where crystals such as zircon with uranium and thorium inclusions do not occur, a better, more inclusive, model of the data must be applied. These types of minerals often produce lower precision ages than igneous and metamorphic minerals traditionally used for age dating, but are more common in the geologic record. Interaction between mineralogy and radioactive breakdown[ edit ] During the alpha decay steps, the zircon crystal experiences radiation damage, associated with each alpha decay.
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