Jan 21, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Scientists Develop Atomic-Scale Imaging Technique To Measure The Age Of Planetary Samples Accurately

May 29, 2017 06:58 PM EDT

As dating meteorite and planetary samples are difficult for scientists, a team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth discovered a method to accurately measure the sample’s ages. The developed method of the researchers is then called as the atomic-scale imaging technique.

According to Science Daily, the study led by Pompey Ph.D. student Lee White along with University of Portsmouth scientists developed a new technique called atomic-scale imaging technique. The method was said to distinguish whether when a meteorite or planets were dated through locating and counting individual atoms from samples acquired from space.

With that said, White stated that by developing the atomic-scale imaging technique, people’s view about how old a certain meteorite might change. The technique could also make scientists delve deeper into the complexity of both unknown and certain planetary samples.

The atomic-scale imaging technique was described to be possible through atom probe tomography (APT) that used spatial and chemical resolution as one. The experiment used APT in order to date the uranium-bearing mineral known as baddeleyite (ZrO2). The APT then involved the tiny grains of the mineral sample and charged the atoms one at a time using a laser.

Furthermore, by counting the uranium and lead atoms until the extent of the mineral’s deformation, the team discovered that the baddeleyite was taken from a 1.85 billion-year-old impact structure at Sudbury near Toronto, Canada. The research paper entitled "Atomic-Scale Age Resolution of Planetary Events” was published in the journal Nature Communications as The Register reported.

"The ability to generate targeted, high-precision ages with APT shows great promise when examining tiny baddeleyite grains in meteorites. As we are able to identify and sample at the nanoscale, it opens up new avenues for dating highly deformed materials and provides an exceptional opportunity to accurately measure timings of major solar system events," the team wrote on their research paper noted.

Hence, study co-author Dr. James Darling, Senior Lecturer in Geology in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences stated that the atomic imaging technique was deemed to open and allow further discoveries about dating highly deformed materials and to accurately measure upcoming major solar system events. Darling also note that the technique could also discover how deformation affects the chemistry of materials in the future.

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