Radiometric dating techniques can be used to determine the time elapsed since an event caused the fractionation of the radioactive parent isotope from its daughter isotope. Such datable fractionation events include rock or mineral formation during magma cooling, mineral crystallisation or formation during diagenesis or metamorphism, or isolation of the parent from a well-mixed reservoir (i.e. radiocarbon dating).
The chemistry of the parent and daughter element and its behaviour during such fractionation events must therefore be well understood if the technique is to be correctly applied. Each of the geochronology techniques outlined below have specific geological, biological and analytical requirements, with the half-life of the radioactive parent providing an estimate of the time scale over which the technique may be usefully applied.
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