(Do not confuse with the highly radioactive isotope, strontium-90.) Strontium occurs naturally as a mixture of several nuclides, including the stable isotope strontium-86.If three different strontium-containing minerals form at the same time in the same magma, each strontium containing mineral will have the same ratios of the different strontium nuclides, since all strontium nuclides behave the same chemically.
Any argon present in a mineral containing potassium-40 must have been formed as the result of radioactive decay.
F, the fraction of K40 remaining, is equal to the amount of potassium-40 in the sample, divided by the sum of potassium-40 in the sample plus the calculated amount of potassium required to produce the amount of argon found. In spite of the fact that it is a gas, the argon is trapped in the mineral and can't escape.
Because of radioactivity, the fraction of rubidium-87 decreases from an initial value of 100% at the time of formation of the mineral, and approaches zero with increasing number of half lives.
At the same time, the fraction of strontium-87 increases from zero and approaches 100% with increasing number of half-lives.
Strontium-86 is a stable element that does not undergo radioactive change.
In addition, it is not formed as the result of a radioactive decay process.
The amount of strontium-86 in a given mineral sample will not change.
Therefore the relative amounts of rubidium-87 and strontium-87 can be determined by expressing their ratios to strontium-86: Rb-87/Sr-86 and Sr87/Sr-86 We measure the amounts of rubidium-87 and strontium-87 as ratios to an unchanging content of strontium-86.
The sum of protons plus neutrons is the mass number.
We designate a specific group of atoms by using the term "nuclide." A nuclide refers to a group of atoms with specified atomic number and mass number.
The decrease in the amount of potassium required to form the original mineral has consistently confirmed the age as determined by the amount of argon formed.