Chlorine-36

Chlorine-36

Overview
Chlorine-36 is an isotope of chlorine. Chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 has two stable isotope
Stable isotope
Stable isotopes are chemical isotopes that may or may not be radioactive, but if radioactive, have half-lives too long to be measured.Only 90 nuclides from the first 40 elements are energetically stable to any kind of decay save proton decay, in theory...

s and one radioactive environmental isotope
Environmental isotopes
The environmental isotopes are a subset of the isotopes, both stable and radioactive, which are the object of Isotope geochemistry.The most used environmental isotopes are:* deuterium* tritium* carbon-13* carbon-14* nitrogen-15* oxygen-18...

: the cosmogenic isotope 36Cl. The ratio of 36Cl to stable 37Cl in the environment is ~700 × 10−15. Its half-life is 301,000 ± 4,000 years. The long half-life
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

 of 36Cl makes it useful to date groundwater
Groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

 up to one million years old. There also are observed natural variations in 37Cl.
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Encyclopedia
Chlorine-36 is an isotope of chlorine. Chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 has two stable isotope
Stable isotope
Stable isotopes are chemical isotopes that may or may not be radioactive, but if radioactive, have half-lives too long to be measured.Only 90 nuclides from the first 40 elements are energetically stable to any kind of decay save proton decay, in theory...

s and one radioactive environmental isotope
Environmental isotopes
The environmental isotopes are a subset of the isotopes, both stable and radioactive, which are the object of Isotope geochemistry.The most used environmental isotopes are:* deuterium* tritium* carbon-13* carbon-14* nitrogen-15* oxygen-18...

: the cosmogenic isotope 36Cl. The ratio of 36Cl to stable 37Cl in the environment is ~700 × 10−15. Its half-life is 301,000 ± 4,000 years. The long half-life
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

 of 36Cl makes it useful to date groundwater
Groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

 up to one million years old. There also are observed natural variations in 37Cl. Most such variations in 37Cl values of hydrologic systems are related to diffusion processes.

Chlorine-36 is produced in the upper atmosphere through spallation
Spallation
In general, spallation is a process in which fragments of material are ejected from a body due to impact or stress. In the context of impact mechanics it describes ejection or vaporization of material from a target during impact by a projectile...

 reactions and in solid materials on the surface of the earth in three ways: spallation reactions, muon
Muon
The muon |mu]] used to represent it) is an elementary particle similar to the electron, with a unitary negative electric charge and a spin of ½. Together with the electron, the tau, and the three neutrinos, it is classified as a lepton...

 reactions and thermal neutron absorption
Neutron capture
Neutron capture is a kind of nuclear reaction in which an atomic nucleus collides with one or more neutrons and they merge to form a heavier nucleus. Since neutrons have no electric charge they can enter a nucleus more easily than positively charged protons, which are repelled...

. Spallation reactions also occur when gamma ray
Gamma ray
Gamma radiation, also known as gamma rays or hyphenated as gamma-rays and denoted as γ, is electromagnetic radiation of high frequency . Gamma rays are usually naturally produced on Earth by decay of high energy states in atomic nuclei...

s interact with minerals in the top several meters of the Earth's surface. It can also be produced through muon reactions and thermal neutron absorption. 36Cl was also produced during nuclear bomb testing in the middle of the 20th century.

Trace amounts of radioactive 36Cl exist in the environment, in a ratio of about 7 × 10−13 to 1 with stable isotopes. 36Cl is produced in the atmosphere by spallation
Spallation
In general, spallation is a process in which fragments of material are ejected from a body due to impact or stress. In the context of impact mechanics it describes ejection or vaporization of material from a target during impact by a projectile...

 of 36Ar
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

 by interactions with cosmic ray
Cosmic ray
Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles, originating from outer space. They may produce secondary particles that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and surface. The term ray is historical as cosmic rays were thought to be electromagnetic radiation...

 proton
Proton
The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol or and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom, along with neutrons. The number of protons in each atom is its atomic number....

s. In the subsurface environment, 36Cl is generated primarily as a result of neutron capture
Neutron capture
Neutron capture is a kind of nuclear reaction in which an atomic nucleus collides with one or more neutrons and they merge to form a heavier nucleus. Since neutrons have no electric charge they can enter a nucleus more easily than positively charged protons, which are repelled...

 by 35Cl or muon capture
Muon capture
Muon capture is the capture of a negative muon by a proton, usually resulting in production of a neutron and a neutrino, and sometimes a gamma photon....

 by 40Ca
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

. 36Cl decays to 36S
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

 and to 36Ar
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

, with a combined half-life
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

 of 308,000 years. The half-life of this hydrophilic nonreactive isotope makes it suitable for geologic dating in the range of 60,000 to 1 million years. Additionally, large amounts of 36Cl were produced by irradiation of seawater
Seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

 during atmospheric detonations of nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s between 1952 and 1958. The residence time of 36Cl in the atmosphere is about 2 years. Thus, as an event marker of 1950s water in soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

 and ground water, 36Cl is also useful for dating waters less than 50 years before the present. 36Cl has seen use in other areas of the geological sciences, including dating ice and sediments.

Decay-rate fluctuations


There have been recent reports (2010) identifying fluctuations in the detection rates from 36Cl and other isotopes. At the time of writing it has not been determined if these represent genuine anomalies in the decay rate or have some more mundane explanation.