Fission-track analysis is a thermochronologic method for dating rocks and reconstructing their low-temperature thermal histories. We investigate the influence of the apatite composition on the etching of fossil confined fission tracks, and its consequences for the fission-track method. We conducted step-etch experiments with 5.5 M HNO3 at 21 °C on samples with etch pit diameters (Dpar) spanning most of the range for natural apatites (Panasqueira: 1.60 µm, Slyudyanka: 2.44 µm, Brazil: 3.92 µm, and Bamble: 4.60 µm) to determine their apatite etch rates vR (the rate at which each lattice plane is displaced parallel to itself) as a function of crystallographic orientation (ϕ’). Our measurements revealed significant differences between the four samples. We fitted three-parameter functions, vR = a(Dpar) ϕ’ eb(Dpar)ϕ’ + c, describing vR as a function of the angle to the apatite c-axis for our hexagonal samples (excluding Bamble) and Durango apatite. The parameters a and b both exhibit a linear correlation with Dpar, whereas the constant c is small (~0.1 µm.min-1) and its between-sample variation negligible at the resolution of our measurements. Bamble exhibits a different, bimodal relationship between vR and ϕ’, which we fitted with a sum of two sine functions. In all cases, including Bamble, there is a striking correlation between the angular frequencies of horizontal confined tracks and the magnitude of the apatite etch rate vR perpendicular to the track axes. This shows that the sample of confined tracks selected for measurement and modeling is to a much greater degree determined by the etching properties of the apatite sample than by geometric or subjective biases. The track etch rate vT is constant along most of the track length but varies from track to track. The mean vT correlates with Dpar, so that tracks etch to their full lengths in a shorter time in faster etching apatites. The mean rate of length increase between etch steps, vL, also correlates with Dpar. The length increments of individual tracks are however irregular. This points to an intermittent structure at the ends of the tracks.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.
You do not have access to this content, please speak to your institutional administrator if you feel you should have access.