Chronological Methods 9 - Potassium-Argon Dating Potassium-Argon Dating Potassium-Argon dating is the only viable technique for dating very old archaeological materials. Geologists have used this method to date rocks as much as 4 billion years old. It is based on the fact that some of the radioactive isotope of Potassium, Potassium-40 K-40 ,decays to the gas Argon as Argon-40 Ar-40. By comparing the proportion of K-40 to Ar-40 in a sample of volcanic rock, and knowing the decay rate of K-40, the date that the rock formed can be determined. How Does the Reaction Work?The Potassium-40 Argon-40 Reaction Ar 40 is used for several reasons. First of all, Argon is inert. It does not chemically react with other elements at all. So Argon does not attach itself to the rock or any minerals in the rock. Secondly, Argon is usually a gas.
The belief that radiodating methods give absolute measurements of time is widespread as a result of scientific popularization in journals, conferences, and the media. In fact, due to the difficulties in applying the experimental method to events in the past, all chronometers based on natural or artificial nuclear disintegration need a calibration. This calibration supposes a great number of basic assumptions concerning initial conditions.
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