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Apatite Fission-track Laboratory

apatite crystal
Apatite crystal with fission-tracks

Lab Manager: Dr. Shari Kelley

Complete apatite fission-track (AFT) dating facilities are available at the New Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources.  We have a mineral separation lab for concentrating apatite and zircon, and we maintain facilities for mounting, polishing and etching the samples.  We date the samples using the external detector method. We have a dedicated petrographic microscope with a stage fitted with a digital micrometer that allows easy, precise translation between the grain mount and the external detector.  In addition, confined track length measurements are recorded with a precision of ±0.2 µm using SPOT imagery software.  The samples are irradiated in the research reactor at the Texas A&M Nuclear Science Center.  Software packages for statistical processing of the age and track length data and for deriving the thermal history from the data have been developed.  Fission-track annealing models available in the literature (e.g., HeFTy) are used to estimate time-temperature paths from the AFT and (U-Th)/He data. In addition, we have a Nikon SMZ-1500 binocular zoom microscope, a digital camera, and measurement software for picking and characterizing inclusion-free apatites for (U-Th)/He analyses.