Variation in the terrestrial isotopic composition and atomic weight of argon

Pure and Applied Chemistry



The isotopic composition and atomic weight of argon (Ar) are variable in terrestrial materials. Those variations are a source of uncertainty in the assignment of standard properties for Ar, but they provide useful information in many areas of science. Variations in the stable isotopic composition and atomic weight of Ar are caused by several different processes, including (1) isotope production from other elements by radioactive decay (radiogenic isotopes) or other nuclear transformations (e.g., nucleogenic isotopes), and (2) isotopic fractionation by physical-chemical processes such as diffusion or phase equilibria. Physical-chemical processes cause correlated mass-dependent variations in the Ar isotope-amount ratios (40Ar/36Ar, 38Ar/36Ar), whereas nuclear transformation processes cause non-mass-dependent variations. While atmospheric Ar can serve as an abundant and homogeneous isotopic reference, deviations from the atmospheric isotopic ratios in other Ar occurrences limit the precision with which a standard atomic weight can be given for Ar. Published data indicate variation of Ar atomic weights in normal terrestrial materials between about 39.7931 and 39.9624. The upper bound of this interval is given by the atomic mass of 40Ar, as some samples contain almost pure radiogenic 40Ar. The lower bound is derived from analyses of pitchblende (uranium mineral) containing large amounts of nucleogenic 36Ar and 38Ar. Within this interval, measurements of different isotope ratios (40Ar/36Ar or 38Ar/36Ar) at various levels of precision are widely used for studies in geochronology, water–rock interaction, atmospheric evolution, and other fields.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Variation in the terrestrial isotopic composition and atomic weight of argon
Series title Pure and Applied Chemistry
DOI 10.1515/pac-2013-0918
Volume 86
Issue 9
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 12 p.
First page 1421
Last page 1432
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N