laser ablation pits and rasters in a zircon standard

Chronology overview

Quantifying geological time is central to our understanding of the evolution of the Earth System. By establishing the exact timing of geologic events, such as climatic and evolutionary transitions, we can test hypotheses that invoke cause and effect relationships between different components of the Earth System, and quantify rates of processes. Radio-isotopic dating provides the means to obtain precise and accurate temporal constraints on nearly all types of geological archives, from the ocean sediments that record Cenozoic climate change, to xenoliths from the lower crust which record plate tectonic processes, and detrital minerals that that track landscape evolution.

NIGL has established a centre of international excellence in geochronology emphasising the U-Th-Pb decay system. This capability has evolved much in recent years in response to user demand towards addressing a wider range of problems (for example, erosion studies, Quaternary dating, high-precision/accuracy dating of the stratigraphic record).

Comprehensive analytical capabilities exist at NIGL, where we combine high-precision isotope dilution methods with high-spatial resolution techniques that use laser ablation for spatially resolved sampling. This critical collection of capabilities and expertise allows us to tackle a wide variety of projects for the UK user community. In addition to our NERC facility program of work NIGL also plays a crucial role in providing geochronological data for UK and international BGS geology programmes.