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Radiometric dating or radioactive dating is a technique used to date materials such as rocks or carbon, in which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed.

The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay.

Because this new element (decay product) remains on or within the object, scientists can easily determine how old the object is. A mass spectrometer is a fundamental device in any radiometric dating experiment.

Mass spectrometers can be used to measure isotopic samples as small as one 1 nanogram.

Radiometric dating is often referred to as “radioactive dating” and “carbon dating,” though many different types of isotopes can be used to identify an object’s age.Recent puzzling observations of tiny variations in nuclear decay rates have led some to question the science of using decay rates to determine the relative ages of rocks and organic materials.Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), working with researchers from Purdue University, the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Wabash College, tested the hypothesis that solar radiation might affect the rate at which radioactive elements decay and found no detectable effect.He was employed at Caltech's Division of Geological & Planetary Sciences at the time of writing the first edition.He is presently employed in the Space & Atmospheric Sciences Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.