Improvements in 230Th dating, 230Th and 234U half-life values, and U-Th isotopic measurements by multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

TitleImprovements in 230Th dating, 230Th and 234U half-life values, and U-Th isotopic measurements by multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCheng H, Edwards R L, Shen C-C, Polyak VJ, Asmerom Y, Woodhead J, Hellstrom J, Wang Y, Kong X, Spötl C, Wang X, Alexander, Jr ECalvin
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume371-372
Pagination82-91
Date Published06/2013
Keywords230Th dating, 230Th half-life, 234U half-live, dating accuracy, U-series
Abstract

We have developed techniques for measuring 234U and 230Th on Faraday cups with precisions of 1–3 epsilon units (1 ε-unit=1 part in 104) using multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS). Using a Thermo-Scientific Neptune with desolvation nebulization, we obtained ionization/transmission efficiencies of 1–2% for both U and Th. We set up protocols to correct for tailing, prepared U and Th gravimetric standards, tested a Th mass fractionation correction procedure based on U isotopes, and identified natural calcite samples likely to be in U–Th isotopic secular equilibrium. The measured atomic ratios, 234U/238U=54.970 (±0.019)×10−6 and 230Th/238U=16.916 (±0.018)×10−6, for these calcite samples were identical within errors (quoted 2σ uncertainties calculated combining all sources of error). Half-life values calculated from these ratios are consistent with previous values, but have much smaller errors: 245,620±260 a for 234U and 75,584±110 a for 230Th (quoted 2σ uncertainties calculated using all sources of error). In calculating a 230Th age, some of the systematic errors included in estimating the full error in the half-lives effectively cancel. Removing these uncertainties (uncertainty in the 238U half-life value, uncertainty in our gravimetric uranium and thorium standards, and uncertainty in the absolute isotopic composition of the uranium standard), yields effective uncertainties for the purposes of 230Th dating of ±70 a for the 234U half-life value and ±30 a for the 230Th half-life value. Under ideal circumstances, with our methods, the 2σ uncertainty in age, including uncertainty in half-life values is ±10 a at 10 ka, ±100 a at 130 ka, ±300 a at 200 ka, ±1 ka at 300 ka, ±2 ka at 400 ka, ±6 ka at 500 ka, and ±12 ka at 600 ka. The isotopic composition of a sample with an age <800 ka can clearly be resolved from the isotopic composition of a sample in secular equilibrium, assuming closed system behavior. Using these techniques, we analyzed a Sanbao Cave (Hubei, China) stalagmite that formed between 510 and 640 ka ago. As the half-life values were determined independent of the Sanbao Cave ages, the observed co-variation between stalagmite δ18O and Northern Hemisphere summer insolation is consistent with accurate ages and half-life values.

DOI10.1016/j.epsl.2013.04.006