A metrological approach to measuring 40Ar* concentrations in K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar mineral standards



In geochronology, isotopic ages are determined from the ratio of parent and daughter nuclide concentrations in minerals. For dating of geological material using the K-Ar system, the simultaneous determination of 40Ar and 40K concentrations on the same aliquot is not possible. Therefore, a widely used variant, the 40Ar/39Ar technique, involves the production of 39Ar from 39K by neutron bombardment and the reliance on indirect natural calibrators of the neutron flux, referred to as “mineral standards.” Many mineral standards still in use rely on decades-old determinations of 40Ar concentrations; resulting uncertainties, both systematic and analytical, impede the determination of higher accuracy ages using the K-Ar decay system. We discuss the theoretical approach and technical design of a gas delivery system which emits metrologically traceable amounts of 40Ar and will allow for the sensitivity calibration of noble gas mass spectrometers. The design of this system is based on a rigorous assessment of the uncertainty budget and detailed tests of a prototype system. A number of obstacles and proposed resolutions are discussed along with the selection of components and their integration into a pipette system.