Radiometric dating is used to estimate the age of rocks and other objects based on the fixed decay rate of radioactive isotopes.
Learn about half-life and how it is used in different dating methods, such as uranium-lead dating and radiocarbon dating, in this video lesson. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows.
Uranium is not the only isotope that can be used to date rocks; we do see additional methods of radiometric dating based on the decay of different isotopes.
For example, with potassium-argon dating, we can tell the age of materials that contain potassium because we know that potassium-40 decays into argon-40 with a half-life of 1.3 billion years.
For example, uranium-lead dating can be used to find the age of a uranium-containing mineral.
It works because we know the fixed radioactive decay rates of uranium-238, which decays to lead-206, and for uranium-235, which decays to lead-207.
So, radiocarbon dating can be used to find the age of things that were once alive, like the Iceman.
The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.
The thing that makes this decay process so valuable for determining the age of an object is that each radioactive isotope decays at its own fixed rate, which is expressed in terms of its half-life.
When the isotope is halfway to that point, it has reached its half-life.
There are different methods of radiometric dating that will vary due to the type of material that is being dated.
With rubidium-strontium dating, we see that rubidium-87 decays into strontium-87 with a half-life of 50 billion years.