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Others place mineral grains under a special microscope, firing a laser beam at the grains which ionises the mineral and releases the isotopes.

The isotopes are then measured within the same machine by an attached mass spectrometer (an example of this is SIMS analysis).

This technique is used on ferromagnesian (iron/magnesium-containing) minerals such as micas and amphiboles or on limestones which also contain abundant strontium.A commonly used radiometric dating technique relies on the breakdown of potassium (Ar in an igneous rock can tell us the amount of time that has passed since the rock crystallized.If an igneous or other rock is metamorphosed, its radiometric clock is reset, and potassium-argon measurements can be used to tell the number of years that has passed since metamorphism.These are released as radioactive particles (there are many types).This decay process leads to a more balanced nucleus and when the number of protons and neutrons balance, the atom becomes stable.

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