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The thermoluminescence (TL) properties of plagioclase separates from 11 independently dated alkalic basalts 4,500 years to 3.3 million years old and 17 tholeiitic basalts 16 years to 450,000 years old from the Hawaiian Islands were investigated for the purpose of developing a TL dating method for young volcanic rocks. Ratios of natural to artificial TL intensity, when normalized for natural radiation dose rates, were used to quantify the thermoluminescence response of individual samples for age-determination purposes. The TL ratios for the alkalic basalt plagioclase were found to increase with age at a predictable exponential rate that permits the use of the equation for the best-fit line through a plot of the TL ratios relative to known age as a TL age equation. The equation is applicable to rocks ranging in composition from basaltic andesite to trachyte over the age range from about 2,000 to at least 250,000 years before present (B.P.). The TL ages for samples older than 50,000 years have a calculated precision of less than :t 10 percent and a potential estimated accuracy relative to potassium-argon ages of approximately :t 10 percent. An attempt to develop a similar dating curve for the tholeiitic basalts was not as successful, primarily because the dose rates are on the average lower than those for the alkalic basalts by a factor of 6, resulting in lower TL intensities in the tholeiitic basalts for samples of equivalent age, and also because the age distribution of dated material is inadequate. The basic TL properties of the plagioclase from the two rock types are similar, however, and TL dating of tholeiitic basalts should eventually be feasible over the age range 10,000 to at least 200,000 years B.P.
The average composition of the plagioclase separates from the alkalic basalts ranges from oligoclase to andesine; compositional variations within this range have no apparent effect on the TL ratios. The average composition of the plagioclase from the tholeiitic basalts is labradorite.
The natural radiogenic dose rates for the alkalic basalts calculated on the basis of assumed secular equilibrium range from 0.228 to 0.462 rad per year and average 0.335 rad per year exclusive of the cosmic-ray energy dose and with the alpha-particle component equal to one-tenth of the total alpha decay energy. The TL measurements were made using material of a 37 to 44-micrometer size range; the crushing required during sample preparation was found to have a negligible effect on natural TL.
Both natural and artificial TL were filtered to the bandwidth 3,500 A to 5,000 A to restrict the light detected to that from the plagioclase emission peak centered at about 4,500 A and associated with structural defects. Within this bandwidth, the natural TL from both the alkalic and tholeiitic basalt plagioclase consists of a single peak with a maximum amplitude at about 350?C; the artificial TL glow curves produced by an exposure of the drained samples to a standard dose of X-radiation consist of four broad, variably overlapping peaks with maxima at about 110?C, 150?C, 225?C, and 300?C. The maximum amplitude of the 350?C natural and 300?C artificial TL peaks, both produced by the same general activation energy distribution of trapping centers, were used for TL dating. The high-temperature artificial TL peak occurs at a lower temperature than the corresponding natural TL peak owing to the presence of a large number of electrons retained in traps near the lower end of the trap-depth energy range in samples whose TL is measured a short time after intense artificial irradiation. These traps remain essentially empty in the natural environment owing to spontaneous decay and do not produce measurable low-temperature natural TL peaks. With prolonged storage after irradiation, the 300?C artificial TL peak migrates to higher temperatures and decreases in amplitude.