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Radiometric Dating using Calcium-41       


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Radiometric Dating , Calcium 41

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea: A recent study has shown that Calcium-41 can be used in a similar way as Carbon-14 in carbon dating, but with several advantages.

Carbon Dating and its limitations

  • Carbon-14 is an unstable and weakly radioactive isotope of carbon.
  • It has a half-life of 5,700 years and is used to estimate the age of carbon-based materials.
  • Radiocarbon dating provides objective age estimates for materials from living organisms.
  • Carbon-14 cannot determine the age of objects older than approximately 50,000 years.
  • Three techniques are used to measure carbon-14 content: gas proportional counting, liquid scintillation counting, and accelerator mass spectrometry.

Introducing Calcium-41

  • Calcium-41 is a rare long-lived radioisotope of calcium with a half-life of 99,400 years.
  • It is produced through cosmic ray interactions in the soil and is found in the Earth’s crust.
  • Calcium-41 occurs less frequently than carbon-14.

Method used: Atom Trap Trace Analysis (ATTA)

  • ATTA is a technique proposed by researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China.
  • It is based on laser manipulation and detection of neutral atoms.
  • The sample is vaporized, and the atoms are laser-cooled and loaded into a light and magnetic field cage.
  • By tuning the laser’s frequency, Calcium-41 atoms can be detected through electron transitions.

Significance and Applications

  • ATTA can detect one Calcium-41 atom in every 10^16 calcium atoms in seawater with 12% precision.
  • It is selective and avoids confusion with potassium-41 atoms.
  • ATTA can be adapted to study other isotopes, such as argon-39, krypton-81, and krypton-85.
  • The applications of ATTA and Calcium-41 include dating rocks covered by ice and exploring Earth-science applications.


Also read:

What is Carbon Dating? How does it work?


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