, Volume 400, Issue 4, pp 1161-1171
Date: 11 Mar 2011

Mid-IR fiber-optic reflectance spectroscopy for identifying the finish on wooden furniture

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Mid-IR fiber-optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) is a totally noninvasive infrared analytical technique allowing the investigation of artworks without the need for any sampling. The development and optimization of this analytical methodology can provide a tool that is capable of supporting conservators during the first steps of their interventions, yielding fast results and dramatically reducing the number of samples needed to identify the materials involved. Furthermore, since reflection IR spectra suffer from important spectral anomalies that complicate accurate spectral interpretation, it is important to characterize known reference materials and substrates in advance. This work aims to verify the possibility of investigating and identifying the most widely used wood finishes by means of fiber-optic (chalcogenide and metal halides) mid-infrared spectroscopy. Two historically widely employed wood finishes (beeswax, shellac) and two modern ones (a hydrogenated hydrocarbon resin and a microcrystalline wax) were investigated in an extended IR range (from 1000 to 6000 cm−1) with reflectance spectroscopy and with FORS. The broad spectral response of the MCT detector was exploited in order to include overtones and combination bands from the NIR spectral range in the investigation. The reflectance spectra were compared with those collected in transmission mode in order to highlight modifications to shapes and intensities, to assign absorptions, and finally to select “marker” bands indicating the presence of certain finishing materials, even when applied onto a substrate such as wood, which shows many absorptions in the mid-infrared region. After the characterization, the different products were applied to samples of aged pear wood and investigated with the same techniques in order to check the ability of mid-IR FORS to reveal the presence and composition of the product on the wooden substrate.