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Geologists must ensure that they choose an appropriate rock.
Granite and sandstone boulders are frequently used in cosmogenic nuclide dating, as they have large amounts of quartz, which yields Beryllium-10, a cosmogenic nuclide ideal for dating glacial fluctuations over Quaternary timescales.
Beryllium-10 (Be) does not occur naturally in quartz, and once it forms following spallation it becomes trapped by quartz’s regular crystal lattice.
Trimlines can therefore also be used to reconstruct past ice sheet thickness.
Different isotopes are used for different lengths of times.
This long period of applicability is an added advantage of cosmogenic nuclide dating.
By sampling the rocks and separating certain minerals (such as quartz or pyroxene) and calculating the amount of these minerals (as a ratio to other, stable, minerals), we can work out how long the rock has been exposed on the earth’s surface.
Cosmogenic nuclides are rare nuclides that form in surface rocks because of bombardment by high-energy cosmic rays.