Uranium–lead (U–Pb) dating is one of the oldest and most refined of the radiometric dating schemes, with a routine age range of about 1 million years to over 4.5 billion years, and with routine precisions in the 0.1–1 percent range. The method relies on two separate decay chains, the uranium series from 238U to 206Pb, with a half-life of 4.47 billion years and the actinium series from 235U to 207Pb, with a half-life of 704 million years. These decay routes occur via a series of alpha (and beta) decays, in which 238U with daughter nuclides undergo eight total alpha and six beta decays whereas 235U with daughters only experience seven alpha and four beta decays.
The existence of two 'parallel' uranium-lead decay routes (238U to 206Pb and 235U to 207Pb) leads to multiple dating techniques within the overall U–Pb system. The term U–Pb dating normally implies the coupled use of both decay schemes in the 'concordia diagram' (see below). However, use of a single decay scheme (usually 238U to 206Pb) leads to the U–Pb isochron dating method, analogous to the rubidium-strontium dating method. Finally, ages can also be determined from the U–Pb system by analysis of Pb isotope ratios alone. This is termed the lead-lead dating method. Clair Cameron Patterson, an American geochemist who pioneered studies of uranium–lead radiometric dating methods, is famous for having used it to obtain one of the earliest accurate estimates of the age of the Earth.
Read more about Uranium-lead Dating: Mineralogy, Interaction Between Mineralogy and Radioactive Breakdown, Details of The Process
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“We go on dating from Cold Fridays and Great Snows; but a little colder Friday, or greater snow would put a period to mans existence on the globe.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)