Resolving the effects of 2-D versus 3-D grain measurements on apatite (U–Th) ∕ He age data and reproducibility
(U–Th) ∕ He thermochronometry relies on the accurate and precise quantification of individual grain volume and surface area, which are used to calculate mass, alpha ejection (FT) correction, equivalent sphere radius (ESR), and ultimately isotope concentrations and age. The vast majority of studies use 2-D or 3-D microscope dimension measurements and an idealized grain shape to calculate these parameters, and a long-standing question is how much uncertainty these assumptions contribute to observed intra-sample age dispersion and accuracy. Here we compare the results for volume, surface area, grain mass, ESR, and FT correction derived from 2-D microscope and 3-D X-ray computed tomography (CT) length and width data for > 100 apatite grains. We analyzed apatite grains from two samples that exhibited a variety of crystal habits, some with inclusions. We also present 83 new apatite (U–Th) ∕ He ages to assess the influence of 2-D versus 3-D FT correction on sample age precision and effective uranium (eU). The data illustrate that the 2-D approach systematically overestimates grain volumes and surface areas by 20 %–25 %, impacting the estimates for mass, eU, and ESR – important parameters with implications for interpreting age scatter and inverse modeling. FT factors calculated from 2-D and 3-D measurements differ by ∼2 %. This variation, however, has effectively no impact on reducing intra-sample age reproducibility, even on small aliquot samples (e.g., four grains). We also present a grain-mounting procedure for X-ray CT scanning that can allow hundreds of grains to be scanned in a single session and new software capabilities for 3-D FT and FT-based ESR calculations that are robust for relatively low-resolution CT data, which together enable efficient and cost-effective CT-based characterization.