A low-contamination method for hydrothermal decomposition of zircon and extraction of U and Pb for isotopic age determinations

  • Krogh T
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A simple procedure for the decomposition of zircon and the extraction of U and Pb for isotopic age determinations has been developed and tested (Krogh, 1971a,b). Samples are decomposed at 220°C with 48 per cent HF in a Teflon® capsule confined by a self-sealing stainless steel jacket. Uranium and lead are isolated on a Teflon® anion exchange column using Dowex 1 resin. Measured lead contamination levels range from 0.5 to 5.0 ng. In contrast, lead blanks for the borax fusion technique used in all previous zircon analyses are typically 0.2 to 1.0 μg. Eight small samples weighing 0.3 to 7 mg contained 30 to 260 ng of Pb206. The average value for the total amount of common lead present in the lead isotopic composition analysis, contributed from both the sample and the chemical procedures, was 1.4 ng. The highest Pb206Pb204ratio measured to date (126,000) was obtained on a 0.1-g sample that contained 50 ppm of Pb206. An exact determination of the amount of common lead in zircons is now possible. A maximum value of 0.3 ppm was found for fourteen nonmagnetic zircon fractions from granites and rhyolites. Higher values reported in the literature suggest that lead contamination levels are often underestimated in the analysis of zircons by the borax fusion technique. The silica-gel loading technique for lead provides stable emission for small samples as well as limited isotopic fractionation in the mass spectrometer. These features, combined with the low levels of lead contamination and the high precision of mass spectrometric analyses, make possible an average reproducibility (for duplicate decompositions of the same finely ground sample) of 0.3 m.y. for lead 207 206 ages of 2750 m.y. The new method requires fewer reagents and is much easier than the borax fusion technique. © 1973.

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  • T. E. Krogh

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