High-resolution non-invasive 3D imaging of paint microstructure by synchrotron-based X-ray laminography
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The characterisation of the microstructure and micromechanical behaviour of paint is key to a range of problems related to the conservation or technical art history of paintings. Synchrotron-based X-ray laminography is demonstrated in this paper to image the local sub-surface microstructure in paintings in a non-invasive and non-destructive way. Based on absorption and phase contrast, the method can provide high-resolution 3D maps of the paint stratigraphy, including the substrate, and visualise small features, such as pigment particles, voids, cracks, wood cells, canvas fibres etc. Reconstructions may be indicative of local density or chemical composition due to increased attenuation of X-rays by elements of higher atomic number. The paint layers and their interfaces can be distinguished via variations in morphology or composition. Results of feasibility tests on a painting mockup (oak panel, chalk ground, vermilion and lead white paint) are shown, where lateral and depth resolution of up to a few micrometres is demonstrated. The method is well adapted to study the temporal evolution of the stratigraphy in test specimens and offers an alternative to destructive sampling of original works of art.
We acknowledge the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble, France and its staff for providing beam time for the experiments on beamline ID19, and are especially grateful for the support of Jean-Paul Valade.
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