This technique has become more widely used since the late 1950s.
Its great advantage is that most rocks contain potassium, usually locked up in feldspars, clays and amphiboles.
This technique is used on ferromagnesian (iron/magnesium-containing) minerals such as micas and amphiboles or on limestones which also contain abundant strontium.
This technique also helps in determining the composition and evolution of the Earth's mantle and bodies in the universe.
The Re-Os isotopic system was first developed in the early 1960s, but recently has been improved for accurate age determinations.
The main limitation is that it only works on certain igneous rocks as most rocks have insufficient Re and Os or lack evolution of the isotopes.
Radiocarbon dating is normally suitable for organic materials less than 50 000 years old because beyond that time the amount of 14C becomes too small to be accurately measured.
This scheme was developed in 1937 but became more useful when mass spectrometers were improved in the late 1950s and early 1960s.