Journal cover Journal topic
Geochronology Advances in geochronological science
Journal topic
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  22 Apr 2020

22 Apr 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal GChron.

Percent-level production of 40Ar by an overlooked mode of 40K decay

Jack Carter1, Ryan B. Ickert1,2, Darren F. Mark1,3, Marissa M. Tremblay2, Alan J. Cresswell1, and David C. W. Sanderson1 Jack Carter et al.
  • 1SUERC, Rankine Avenue, Scottish Enterprise Technology Park, East Kilbride, G75 0QF
  • 2Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47901
  • 3University of St Andrews, College Gate, St Andrews, KY16 9AJ, Fife, Scotland, UK

Abstract. The decay of 40K to the stable isotopes 40Ca and 40Ar is used as a measure of time for both the K-Ca and K-Ar geochronometers, the latter of which is most generally utilized by the variant 40Ar/39Ar system. The increasing precision of geochronology has forced practitioners to deal with the systematic uncertainties rooted in all radioisotope dating methods. A major component of these systematic uncertainties for the K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar techniques is imprecisely determined decay constants and an incomplete knowledge of the decay scheme of 40K. Recent studies question whether 40K can decay to 40Ar via an electron capture directly to ground state (ECground), citing the lack of experimental verification as reasoning for its omission. In this study, we (1) provide a theoretical argument in favour of the presence of this decay mode, and (2) evaluate the magnitude of this decay mode by calculating the electron capture to positron ratio (ECground / β+) and after combining it with other estimates, provide a best estimate of 175 ± 65 (2σ). We provide support for this calculation through comparison of the experimentally verified ECground / β+ ratio of 22Na with our calculation using the theory of β decay.When combined with measured values of β+ and β- decay rates, this yields a partial decay constant for 40K direct to ground state 40Ar of 9.6 ± 3.8 × 10−13 a−1 (2σ). We calculate a partial decay constant of 40K to 40Ar of 0.590 ± 0.014 × 10−10 a−1, total decay constant of 5.473 ± 0.107 × 10−10 a−1 (2σ), and conclude that although omission of this decay mode can be significant for K-Ar dating, it is minor for 40Ar/39Ar geochronology and is therefore unlikely to have significantly biased published measurements.

Jack Carter et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment

Jack Carter et al.

Jack Carter et al.


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Latest update: 26 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
40K is an isotope of potassium that undergoes several different modes of radioactive decay. We use the decay of 40K to determine the ages of geologic materials that contain potassium, but doing this requires us to know the rate at which 40K decays by its different decay modes. Here, we investigate one decay mode of 40K that has previously been overlooked. We demonstrate that this decay mode exists, estimate its rate, and evaluate its significance for geochronology.
40K is an isotope of potassium that undergoes several different modes of radioactive decay. We...