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The mineral incorporates uranium and thorium atoms into its crystal structure, but strongly rejects lead.
Therefore, one can assume that the entire lead content of the zircon is radiogenic, i.e.
These fission tracks inevitably act as conduits deep within the crystal, thereby providing a method of transport to facilitate the leaching of lead isotopes from the zircon crystal.
Loss (leakage) of lead from the sample will result in a discrepancy in the ages determined by each decay scheme.
However, use of a single decay scheme (usually Pb) leads to the U–Pb isochron dating method, analogous to the rubidium–strontium dating method.
Finally, ages can also be determined from the U–Pb system by analysis of Pb isotope ratios alone. Clair Cameron Patterson, an American geochemist who pioneered studies of uranium–lead radiometric dating methods, is famous for having used it to obtain one of the earliest estimates of the age of the Earth.
The dating method is usually performed on the mineral zircon.The isotope hydrology program at the International Atomic Energy Agency works to aid developing states (including 84 projects in more than 50 countries) and to create a detailed portrait of Earth's water resources.In Ethiopia, Libya, Chad, Egypt and Sudan, the International Atomic Energy Agency used such techniques to help local water policy deal with fossil water.In areas with a high concentration of the parent isotope, damage to the crystal lattice is quite extensive, and will often interconnect to form a network of radiation damaged areas.Fission tracks and micro-cracks within the crystal will further extend this radiation damage network.