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Advances in Earth Science  2021, Vol. 36 Issue (7): 671-683    DOI: 10.11867/j.issn.1001-8166.2021.062
Dating of Shallow Crusted Faults by Illite K-Ar/Ar-Ar Ages: Principles and Potential
Qi ZHAO1,2,3(),Yi YAN1,2,4,5()
1.Key Laboratory of Ocean and Marginal Sea Geology,Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Guangzhou 510640,China
2.Center for Excellence in Deep Earth Science,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Guangzhou 510640,China
3.College of Earth and Planetary Sciences,University of Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing 100049,China
4.Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory,Guangzhou 511458,China
5.Innovation Academy of South China Sea Ecology and Environmental Engineering,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Guangzhou 510301,China
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Dating of shallow crusted faults has remained difficult. Although most brittle faults produce authigenic/synkinetic illite that can be used for radiometric dating, the fault gouges always retain detrital minerals, such as high-temperature 2M1 polytype illite/mica that make the radioactive age data questioned. However, with the introduction of the Illite Age Analysis method and the "Age-Attractor" method, illite K-Ar/Ar-Ar ages of each grain size fraction can be used for constraining the activity time of near-surface brittle faults. This paper first introduces the principles and assumptions of illite dating, and then reviews the history of the study of fault gouge dating, including the principles and background of the Illite Age Analysis method and "Age-Attractor" method. Then, the factors affecting the dating of illite are evaluated, and it is believed that Ar loss is negligible in the near-surface brittle fault domain, and whether the 2M1 polytype illite/mica is authigenic mineral is crucial for discussing the geological significance of illite age. Finally, it is pointed out that the illite dating method is not only used for shallow crusted fault dating, but can also constrain the deformation time of high-strain folds and tectonic mélange as well. In addition, if the main structural domains of subduction, accretion, and denudation in subduction zones are identified and dated, a complete temporal and spatial evolution process of the subduction zone can be obtained.

Key words:  Fault dating      K-Ar/Ar-Ar age      Illite      Illite age analysis      Age-attractor.     
Received:  15 April 2021      Published:  20 August 2021
ZTFLH:  P597+.3  
Fund: the National Natural Science Foundation of China "Continental crust structure of South China and geological process of northern South China Sea"(U1701641);The Key Special Project for Introduced Talents Team of Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Guangzhou) "Lithospheric thinning rupture process and its resource effect in the northern margin of the South China Sea"(GML2019ZD0205)
Corresponding Authors:  Yi YAN     E-mail:;
About author:  ZHAO Qi (1995-), male, Jingzhou City, Hubei Province, Ph. D student. Research areas include tectonic chronology. E-mail:
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Qi ZHAO,Yi YAN. Dating of Shallow Crusted Faults by Illite K-Ar/Ar-Ar Ages: Principles and Potential. Advances in Earth Science, 2021, 36(7): 671-683.

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Fig. 1  Flow chat of illite age analysis
Fig. 2  K-Ar age results showing the variation in age with size fraction and the good correspondence between the ages obtained and the upper and lower age constraints imposed by zircon and apatite fission track ages19
ZFTA: Zircon Fission Track Ages; AFTA: Apatite Fission Track Ages
Fig. 3  K-Ar age-grain size pattern
Fig. 4  Conceptual "age attractor" model for the interpretation of K-Ar age-grain size patterns as mixing curvesmodified after reference 34])
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