Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/gchron-2024-10
https://doi.org/10.5194/gchron-2024-10
22 Apr 2024
 | 22 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GChron.

Zircon luminescence dating revisited

Christoph Schmidt, Théo Halter, Paul R. Hanson, Alexey Ulianov, Benita Putlitz, Georgina E. King, and Sebastian Kreutzer

Abstract. Luminescence dating plays a pivotal role in Quaternary science, yet ongoing methodological challenges persist in refining the temporal range, accuracy, and precision of luminescence methods. Our contribution revisits zircons as potential alternative dosimeters to quartz, feldspar, or calcite for routine dating applications. The essential advantage of zircons over other minerals is the time-invariant and high internal dose rate due to high radionuclide contents, dominating over the more challenging-to-assess external contribution. Reported drawbacks are low zircon abundance, laborious sample preparation, signal instabilities, unknown optical signal resetting rates, and low signal intensities. Our present study uses modern luminescence detection equipment and analytical methods to investigate mineral separation, mineral characteristics, bleachability, signal spectra and intensities as well as the potential to auto-regenerate signals. We present results for two zircon samples different in provenance, trace element composition and luminescence characteristics, each of them containing a couple of hundred grains. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) signal resetting rates of zircon in response to simulated sunlight exposure are orders of magnitudes faster than for feldspar and slightly slower than for quartz. The recorded thermoluminescence (TL) spectra confirm previously published results with luminescence emissions in the UV/violet and red wavelength range, supplemented by narrowband emissions associated with rare earth element dopants. Storage experiments of single zircon grains for auto-regenerated measurements over 1.5 years yielded very low OSL signals. At the same time, after only three weeks, we measured acceptable TL signal intensities at the cost of lower bleaching rates. To date, the auto-regeneration approach seems to be a promising and accurate approach to date zircon light exposure events, especially when combining the natural OSL with auto-regenerated TL. However, further studies are required to optimise signal intensities and establish zircons as viable targets for routine dating applications.

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Christoph Schmidt, Théo Halter, Paul R. Hanson, Alexey Ulianov, Benita Putlitz, Georgina E. King, and Sebastian Kreutzer

Status: open (until 22 Jun 2024)

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Christoph Schmidt, Théo Halter, Paul R. Hanson, Alexey Ulianov, Benita Putlitz, Georgina E. King, and Sebastian Kreutzer

Data sets

Raw data and data processing scripts for studying the potential of zircon luminescence dating Christoph Schmidt, Théo Halter, Paul R. Hanson, Alexey Ulianov, Benita Putlitz, Georgina E. King, Sebastian Kreutzer https://doi.org/10.48657/705a-g067

Christoph Schmidt, Théo Halter, Paul R. Hanson, Alexey Ulianov, Benita Putlitz, Georgina E. King, and Sebastian Kreutzer

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Short summary
We study the use of zircons as dosimeters using modern techniques, highlighting their advantages such as time-invariant dose rates. We explore the correlation between zircon geochemistry and luminescence properties, observe fast zircon optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) bleaching rates, and assess the potential of auto-regeneration. Low OSL sensitivities require combining natural OSL and auto-regenerated thermoluminescence (TL), with the potential to enhance age accuracy and precision.