Fission track dating archaeology find
Fission track dating has a very good initial condition, being there are no fission tracks evident in a newly formed rock. Alternately, primary ages can be calculated if the rock was formed at the surface and cooled quickly. The fission process results in the release of several hundred million electron volts of energy and produces a large amount of radiation damage before its energy is fully absorbed. However it is not always constant. Unlike any other dating methods, however, fission tracks leave physical evidence of a radioactive process.
Because heating of a sample above the annealing temperature causes the fission damage to heal or anneal, the technique is useful for dating the most recent cooling event in the history of the sample. In order to make fission tracks a useful method to date the earth, it must fit the criteria of good a natural clock. The spontaneous fission of U is irreversible, as there is no know process in the Universe that can fuse two palladium atoms together. The fission-track dating technique is widely used in understanding the thermal evolution of the upper crust, especially in mountain belts. The fragments emitted by this fission process leave trails of damage fossil tracks or ion tracks in the crystal structure of the mineral that contains the uranium.
Chemical etching of polished internal surfaces of these minerals reveals spontaneous fission tracks, and the track density can be determined. In practice, fission-track dates are regarded as cooling ages unless proved otherwise.
Instead of comparing the ratio of isotopes, the age of a rock is determined by visually counting fission tracks of U. As for the procedures used in fission track dating, first rock samples must be collected from a desired study location. The other two requirements for a natural clock are that the process of the clock must be irreversible, and it must have a known final condition. As these molecules underwent fission, their tracks were etched into the mica resin, as the zircon grain was in effect made two-dimensional because of its small width. Fission tracks, as physical structures, are simply linear tracks in rock crystals usually about meters long.
This is why fission tracks can only measure the last cooling of the rock, not its age of formation. The process of track production is essentially the same by which swift heavy ions produce ion tracks.
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