Dating methonds for rocks
The isotopes are then measured within the same machine by an attached mass spectrometer (an example of this is SIMS analysis).
This is a common dating method mainly used by archaeologists, as it can only date geologically recent organic materials, usually charcoal, but also bone and antlers.
This decay process leads to a more balanced nucleus and when the number of protons and neutrons balance, the atom becomes stable.
This system is highly favoured for accurate dating of igneous and metamorphic rocks, through many different techniques.
All living organisms take up carbon from their environment including a small proportion of the radioactive isotope 14C (formed from nitrogen-14 as a result of cosmic ray bombardment).
The amount of carbon isotopes within living organisms reaches an equilibrium value, on death no more is taken up, and the 14C present starts to decay at a known rate.
Some techniques place the sample in a nuclear reactor first to excite the isotopes present, then measure these isotopes using a mass spectrometer (such as in the argon-argon scheme).
Others place mineral grains under a special microscope, firing a laser beam at the grains which ionises the mineral and releases the isotopes.