Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Art Seals Reveal Their Secrets

19.05.2010
Imaging mass spectrometry for analyzing art works

Works of art are valuable and often also very delicate. Their restoration and conservation and their dating and authentication require sophisticated technical methods. A team led by Sichun Zhang at Tsinghua University in Beijing has now developed a new imaging mass spectrometric process to identify paintings and calligraphy without damaging the art pieces. As the scientists report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the secret to the success of this method is a low-temperature plasma probe that gently removes molecules from the surface of the art works.

In mass spectrometry (MS), the substance to be examined is brought into the gas phase and ionized (electrically charged); the ionized particles are then accelerated through by an electric field. Within the analyzer, the particle beam is separated according to the mass and charge of the particles. Imaging mass spectrometric techniques have now also been developed. In this process, the surface of a sample must be scanned and a mass spectrum obtained at every pixel. This technique requires special ionization methods that allow the samples to be examined directly. However, most of the existing imaging mass spectrometric techniques work under vacuum conditions, which limits the size of the samples to be analyzed. In the electrospray technique, solvent molecules carry analyte molecules away from the surface and ionize them.

Delicate works of art such as paintings can however be contaminated and thus damaged by the solvents. The Chinese researchers have now introduced a new variety of imaging MS that operates with a low-temperature plasma probe. This probe essentially consists of a fused capillary and two electrodes made of aluminum foil, to which a very strong alternating voltage is applied. Inside the capillary there is helium gas; the high electric voltage induces what is known as a dielectric barrier discharge in the helium. This means that the helium atoms are in the form of separated ions, electrons, and exited atoms, a state known as a plasma. The temperature of this plasma reaches only 30 °C. The helium plasma leaving the capillary ejects molecules from the surface of the sample and ionizes them. This does not damage valuable works of art.

The scientists used this new technique to analyze seals, which are stamped impressions used as signatures and means of authentication on Chinese paintings and calligraphy. The team was able to use their new microplasma probe to reveal variations in the composition of the ink of individual seals, making it possible to differentiate between authentic and inauthentic seals.

Please note our event "Frontiers of Chemistry" on May 21 in Paris with four Nobel laureates and six other renowned speakers. It will be broadcast live on the internet at chemistryviews.org.

Author: Sichun Zhang, Tsinghua University, Beijing (China), http://chem.tsinghua.edu.cn/zhangxr/xrzhang.htm

Title: Imaging Mass Spectrometry with a Low-Temperature Plasma Probe for the Analysis of Works of Art

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.200906975

Sichun Zhang | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:
http://pressroom.angewandte.org
http://chem.tsinghua.edu.cn/zhangxr/xrzhang.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>