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1.

One use of radioisotopes is for the dating of geological materials such as ancient lava
flows from extinct volcanoes. One method involves measuring the amounts of
40
potassium-40 ( K) found in the lava compared with the amounts of its decay product
40
argon-40 ( Ar).
(i)

The half-life of potassium-40 is approximately 12,000 million years.


Suggest and explain why this long half-life makes potassium-argon dating
unreliable for determining the age of lavas that are only thousands of years old.
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[1]

(ii)

A time-of-flight mass spectrometer is used to measure the amount of argon-40


present in a lava sample.
Give the symbol for the argon-40 ion formed in the mass spectrometer.
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[1]

(iii)

There are two other naturally occurring isotopes of argon, argon-36 and
argon-38.
Describe how a mass spectrum of naturally occurring argon gas would show the
presence of all three isotopes of argon and the relative abundance of each.
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[2]

(iv)

Argon was identified by its atomic emission spectrum.


Explain the occurrence of an atomic emission spectrum in terms of changes in
electronic energy levels and explain why such spectra are unique for individual
elements.
In your answer you should use appropriate technical terms, spelled correctly.
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City and Islington college

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[4]
[Total 8 marks]

2.

Some rocks contain radioactive isotopes that can be used to date the rocks.
Dating of rocks requires being able to accurately measure the amount of both original
(parent) radioisotope and finishing (daughter) stable isotope.
(i)

Suggest two assumptions that must be made if a radioisotope is to be used for


dating a rock.
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[2]

(ii) A time-of-flight mass spectrometer can be used to measure the amount of parent
and daughter isotopes.
Write the following labels on the diagram of a time-of-flight mass spectrometer
below.
acceleration area

ion detector

ionisation area time measurement

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

l i g
s a m

p l e

h e a v y
v a c u u m

h t

i o n s

i n l e t

c h a m

i o n s

b e r
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
[4] [Total 6 marks]

3.
In April 1986, the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union exploded, releasing
a mixture of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere.
One of the main isotopes released was
(i)

Radioactive isotopes such as

131
53 I

131
53 I

can cause cancers.

131

However, 53 I can be used as a radioactive tracer for investigating patients


suffering from a possible deficiency of iodine.
Suggest how it can be explained to a patient that it is relatively safe to use a
dangerous radioactive substance as a tracer in their bodies.
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[2]

(ii)

131
The half-life of 53 I is 8 days. A sample manufactured for use in hospitals has an
original count rate of 16 000 counts per minute. It can be used as a tracer as long
as its count rate is at or above 500 counts per minute.

For how long after manufacture can

131
53 I

be used as a tracer?

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[2]
[Total 4 marks]

4.
(a) One method used by geologists to date igneous rocks relies on the fact that
radioactive elements are present in the rock.
These elements decay as part of a radioactive series.
One series starts with the radioactive uranium-238 isotope and ends with a stable lead
isotope, lead-206.
(i)

Complete the table below for the isotope, lead-206.


number
protons
neutrons
electrons
[3]

City and Islington college

(ii)

The first step in the series is the decay of uranium-238 by alpha emission.
Complete the following nuclear equation representing this step.
238
92

(iii)

U ........
........ TH +

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[3]

The half-life of this first step is very long and this enables the series to be
used to date some of the oldest rocks on earth.
Explain the meaning of the term half-life.
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[2]

(iv)

In a later step in this series an atom of an isotope of bismuth, Bi, decays to


an atom of an isotope of polonium, Po.
Use the Periodic Table on your data sheet to decide what type of
radioactive decay this is. Write your answer below.
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[1]

(b)

Another stage in this decay series results in the formation and then decay of an
isotope of the gas, radon.
Suggest why this might result in an underestimate of the age of the rock.
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[2]
[Total 11 marks]