argonHave you ever wondered how we can tell when the dinosaurs went extinct? The answers lie in the noble gas argon.

Noble gas mass spectrometry analyzes the isotopes of all five noble gases with low volume, beam deflection multicollector array and 1013 Ohm Amplifier Technology. This array of technology offers unparalleled accuracy and precision. The lower the volume, the higher the sensitivity.

But, how does a noble gas mass spectrometer help us answer when the dinosaurs went extinct?

Scientists use a method called Ar-Ar dating to determine the age of the fossils they discover. Back when dinosaurs roamed the planet, volcanoes were more active. Lava flowed and sediment blanketed the earth. Now and then dinosaurs died and asteroids would crash down from outer space, preserving the dinosaurs under even more layers of sediment.

When paleontologists find these fossils, they are usually sandwiched between millions of years’ worth of sediments, or volcanic material.argon-1

When lava cools, it hardens and the trapped potassium decays very slowly to argon. Not only is this new argon trapped inside, but today, scientists can measure argon and its isotopes using systems like the Thermo Scientific Argus VI noble gas mass spectrometer.

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In this way, argon is like a clock. A sample’s isotope-ratio tell us precisely when a layer of sediment was formed. Performing Ar-Ar dating tests on various samples found near a fossil gives paleontologists a rough idea of when that specimen died.

But argon isn’t the only noble gas with a story to tell. There is so much to learn. Put the Thermo Scientific noble gas mass spectrometers to work, and solve the age-old riddle: How old is that rock?

Whether you’re working with boulders or 50 microns of stardust. The lower the volume, the higher the sensitivity.

For more information on noble gas analysis, visit www.thermofisher.com/NobleGasMS