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strontium 87 is a radioactive isotope of strontium produced by the decay of 87Rb. It is available as rod, pellets, pieces, granules and sputtering targets for radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs).
The decay of 87Rb to strontium 87 (87Sr) is used in geologic dating. Various types of rock-forming minerals contain the radioactive isotope rubidium which undergoes an isochron decay to strontium 87.
87Sr/86Sr ratios in igneous rocks indicate their initial age, and are used for isochron dating by mass spectrometry. Isochron dating requires a suite of samples from different ages that all plot along a straight line, called the isochron diagram.
If the 87Sr/86Sr ratios are identical in all the samples, then they represent the same initial age. If 87Sr/86Sr are different, then they indicate that the rocks have been weathered to a different time.
Isochron dating of igneous rocks involves the use of a suite of sample powders, each weighing several kilograms, that are placed in a mass spectrometer. Each sample contains a fraction of a gram of a representative mineral.
The 87Sr/86Sr ratios for the minerals in these representative samples are measured, and the corresponding values plotted on the isochron diagram as R1 to R3. These values are then used to determine a true age of the sample.
Various regions around the world have their own distinct 87Sr/86Sr ratios which are indicative of their unique geological formations and water sources. These 87Sr/86Sr signatures are found in bone, foraminifera, igneous rocks, mineral dust, shells, corals, carbonates, tooth enamel and water.