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can be used to determine how long that material has been exposed at Earth’s surface.
This allows us to calculate exposure ages and erosion rates at Earth’s surface.
High-energy cosmic rays shower the Earth's surface, penetrating meters into rock and producing long-lived radionuclides such as Cl-36, Al-26 and Be-10.
Production rates are almost unimaginably small - a few atoms per gram of rock per year - yet we can detect and count these "cosmogenic isotopes" using accelerator mass spectrometry, down to levels of a few thousand atoms per gram (parts per billion of parts per billion! The build-up of cosmogenic isotopes through time provides us with a way to measure exposure ages for rock surfaces such as fault scarps, lava flows and glacial pavements.