Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Skip to content Skip to navigation

Chemical abrasion-SIMS (CA-SIMS) U-Pb dating of zircon


Chemical abrasion-SIMS (CA-SIMS) U-Pb dating of zircon from the late Eocene Caetano caldera, Nevada

Kathryn E. Watts, Matthew A. Coble, Jorge A. Vazquez, Christopher D. Henry, Joseph P. Colgan, and David A. John


Zircon geochronology is a critical tool for establishing geologic ages and time scales of processes in the Earth's crust. However, for zircons compromised by open system behavior, achieving robust dates can be difficult. Chemical abrasion (CA) is a routine step prior to thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) dating of zircon to remove radiation-damaged parts of grains that may have experienced open system behavior and loss of radiogenic Pb. While this technique has been shown to improve the accuracy and precision of TIMS dating, its application to high-spatial resolution dating methods, such as secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), is relatively uncommon. In our efforts to U-Pb date zircons from the late Eocene Caetano caldera by SIMS (SHRIMP-RG: sensitive high resolution ion microprobe, reverse geometry), some grains yielded anomalously young U-Pb ages that implicated Pb-loss and motivated us to investigate with a comparative CA and non-CA dating study. We present CA and non-CA 206Pb/238U ages and trace elements determined by SHRIMP-RG for zircons from three Caetano samples (Caetano Tuff, Redrock Canyon porphyry, and a silicic ring-fracture intrusion) and for R33 and TEMORA-2 reference zircons. We find that non-CA Caetano zircons have weighted mean or bimodal U-Pb ages that are 2–4% younger than CA zircons for the same samples. CA Caetano zircons have mean U-Pb ages that are 0.4–0.6 Myr older than the 40Ar/39Ar sanidine eruption age (34.00 ± 0.03 Ma; error-weighted mean, 2σ), whereas non-CA zircons have ages that are 0.7–1.3 Myr younger. U-Pb ages do not correlate with U (~ 100–800 ppm), Th (~ 50–300 ppm) or any other measured zircon trace elements (Y, Hf, REE), and CA and non-CA Caetano zircons define identical trace element ranges. No statistically significant difference in U-Pb age is observed for CA versus non-CA R33 or TEMORA-2 zircons. Optical profiler measurements of ion microprobe pits demonstrate consistent depths of ~ 1.6 μm for CA and non-CA Caetano, R33 and TEMORA-2 zircons, and do not indicate variations in secondary ion sputtering rates due to chemical or structural changes from the CA treatment. Our new data underscore the potential for cryptic Pb-loss to go unrecognized in other geologically young magmatic centers that do not have zircons with high U, statistically discordant isotope ratios, high common Pb, or metamict textures.