Improvements in 230Th dating, 230Th and 234U half-life values, and U–Th isotopic measurements by multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry


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May 2013


We have developed techniques for measuring 234U and 230Th on Faraday cups with precisions of 1–3 epsilon units (1 ε-unit=1 part in 104) using multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS). Using a Thermo-Scientific Neptune with desolvation nebulization, we obtained ionization/transmission efficiencies of 1–2% for both U and Th. We set up protocols to correct for tailing, prepared U and Th gravimetric standards, tested a Th mass fractionation correction procedure based on U isotopes, and identified natural calcite samples likely to be in U–Th isotopic secular equilibrium. The measured atomic ratios, 234U/238U=54.970 (±0.019)×10−6 and 230Th/238U=16.916 (±0.018)×10−6, for these calcite samples were identical within errors (quoted 2σ uncertainties calculated combining all sources of error). Half-life values calculated from these ratios are consistent with previous values, but have much smaller errors: 245,620±260 a for 234U and 75,584±110 a for 230Th (quoted 2σ uncertainties calculated using all sources of error). In calculating a 230Th age, some of the systematic errors included in estimating the full error in the half-lives effectively cancel. Removing these uncertainties (uncertainty in the 238U half-life value, uncertainty in our gravimetric uranium and thorium standards, and uncertainty in the absolute isotopic composition of the uranium standard), yields effective uncertainties for the purposes of 230Th dating of ±70 a for the 234U half-life value and ±30 a for the 230Th half-life value. Under ideal circumstances, with our methods, the 2σ uncertainty in age, including uncertainty in half-life values is ±10 a at 10 ka, ±100 a at 130 ka, ±300 a at 200 ka, ±1 ka at 300 ka, ±2 ka at 400 ka, ±6 ka at 500 ka, and ±12 ka at 600 ka. The isotopic composition of a sample with an age <800 ka can clearly be resolved from the isotopic composition of a sample in secular equilibrium, assuming closed system behavior. Using these techniques, we analyzed a Sanbao Cave (Hubei, China) stalagmite that for


Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol. 371-372 (2013-05-23).


U-Series, Th Dating, Th Half-Life, U-Half-Life, Dating Accuracy



Subject: topical

U-Series; Th Dating; Th Half-Life; U-Half-Life; Dating Accuracy