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Journal Articles Lithos Year : 2007

Potential minerals for determining U–Th–Pb chemical age using electron microprobe


After a decade of studies and development, it is now accepted that reliable U–Th–total Pb isochron ages can be calculated for monazite using an electron microprobe at μm scale, either directly on thin sections or on separated grains mounted in polished section. The potential for determining U–Th–Pb chemical ages from other U- and Th-enriched phases has been investigated compared to chemical monazite-dating results for which individual spot-age precisions of 20 to 100 Ma can be achieved from individual spot analyses. Using isochron plots for monazite, the age homogeneity of a given population of data can be assessed and, depending upon the number of analyses (n ∼ 50), a precision of 5 to 10 Ma can be obtained. The U content in xenotime widely varies from less than 0.1 wt.% up to 3 wt.%, but Th rarely exceeds 1 wt.%. As a consequence, the amount of radiogenic Pb produced during a given period remains significantly lower for xenotime than for monazite, leading to a lower precision (± 20 Ma) on the mean ages. Xenotime, however, appears to remain as a closed system, but common Pb must be carefully checked. Furthermore, the electron-microprobe technique (EPMA) allows controlling any age discrepancy on xenotime grains as small as 10–20 μm that cannot be dated by other isotopic methods. Such xenotime ages can be useful when studying the monazite–xenotime equilibrium. The electron microprobe is not the most reliable method for dating zircon since U and Th concentrations are generally low and common Pb is not negligible. Nevertheless, the spatial resolution of EPMA coupled with isotope methods allows conclusive in situ studies about radiogenic Pb mobility and metamictization. Thorite does not seem suitable for dating with either isotope methods or EPMA because of continuous radiogenic Pb loss. Conversely, the oxide phases, thorianite and baddeleyite are robust minerals with closed systems. They are rather rare and seem to incorporate negligible common Pb, making EPMA a method of choice for dating them. For thorianite, the precision on the mean age can be similar as that obtained for monazite, or even better, while the precision for baddeleyite cannot be significantly better than 20 to 50 Ma due to the limited amount of U (∼ 0.1%) and the lack of Th.
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Dates and versions

hal-03647051 , version 1 (20-04-2022)



Alain Cocherie, Olivier Legendre. Potential minerals for determining U–Th–Pb chemical age using electron microprobe. Lithos, 2007, 93 (3-4), pp.288-309. ⟨10.1016/j.lithos.2006.03.069⟩. ⟨hal-03647051⟩


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