A diode laser system for heating minerals for (U-Th)/He chronometry

Jurgen P. T. Foeken, Finlay M. Stuart, Katherine J. Dobson, Cristina Persano, David Vilbert

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We have developed a diode laser (25 W 808 nm) system for He extraction from minerals for (U-Th)/He chronometry. The laser beam is delivered via a 600 μm fiber cable and focused using a binocular microscope. Temperatures necessary for He release from apatite (500-600°C) and zircon (1100-1300°C) encapsulated in Pt-foil tubes are attained by heating to 0.5 W for 30 s and 1.25-2.5 W for 20 min, respectively, using a defocused beam. Heating at these powers does not result in measurable U and/or Th loss from apatite, as noted by the preservation of the distinct Th/U in multiple splits of two different Durango apatite crystals. Analyses of Durango and the California Institute of Technology internal standard apatite 97MR22 yield (U-Th)/He ages of 32.8 ± 1.8 Ma (1<̄, n = 11) and 4.6 ± 0.5 (1<ō, n = 5), respectively, well within accepted ages. The (U-Th)/He age and Th/U of five Fish Canyon Tuff zircon aliquots yield 29.3 ± 2.2 Ma (1<ō) and 0.6 ± 0.03, respectively, and are indistinguishable from ages produced by resistance furnace He extraction. Heating of unencapsulated minerals shows that the diode laser couples well with optically opaque minerals (e.g., hornblende, biotite, muscovite, garnet) and basalt groundmass, suggesting that diode lasers offer a cheap, small, low-maintenance alternative to Nd:YAG and Ar ion lasers for 40Ar/39Ar, cosmogenic noble gas, and stable isotope studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberQ04015
Number of pages9
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2006


  • (U-Th)/He dating
  • apatite
  • helium
  • laser methods
  • low-temperature thermochronology
  • zircon


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