Age calculation dating
The table below shows characteristics of some common radiometric dating methods.
Geologists choose a dating method that suits the materials available in their rocks. Measuring isotopes is particularly useful for dating igneous and some metamorphic rock, but not sedimentary rock.
This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time Most absolute dates for rocks are obtained with radiometric methods.
These use radioactive minerals in rocks as geological clocks.
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Radiocarbon dating measures radioactive isotopes in once-living organic material instead of rock, using the decay of carbon-14 to nitrogen-14.
Because of the fairly fast decay rate of carbon-14, it can only be used on material up to about 60,000 years old.
Geologists use radiocarbon to date such materials as wood and pollen trapped in sediment, which indicates the date of the sediment itself.
All radiometric dating methods measure isotopes in some way.
Most directly measure the amount of isotopes in rocks, using a mass spectrometer.