Frescoes face two main hazards: moisture from the atmosphere and salts in the plaster of the wall on which Renaissance masters made their original paintings. The new tool can measure both moisture and salt content to a depth of two centimetres below the surface. This information could be vital to restorers in deciding the best way to save a painting.
The tool is called SUSI - Sensore di Umidita e Salinita Integrato - which literally means “sensor for humidity and salinity integrated”.
It is a computer-based portable sensor system designed to “feel” below the surface of a 500-year-old work of art. "Moisture and salts are the nemesis of frescoes, and their presence should be detected before damage become too serious", said Roberto Olmi, who led the team of physicists that developed SUSI at the National Research Council in Florence, Italy. "At the beginning of twentieth century, for example, in order to save the paintings a technique used by restorers here in Italy has been to detach the whole thing from the wall and mount it on a wooden board called a Masonite support. An early detection of moisture behind the paintings using SUSI would have avoided such an invasive and dangerous procedure."
Fresco means “fresh” and fresco painting was a test of an artist’s skill: he and his pupils had to get their water based pigments onto the newly-plastered walls before the plaster dried: only then could the painting stick. But the twin threats of time and tourism have over the centuries helped to deface their legacy.
Moisture can damage a fresco in two ways. Water flows to the surface and evaporates, taking bits of the paint with it. Water can also transport soluble salts from the plaster of the wall to the surface, where they crystallise. Eventually the painting whitens and begins to fall off the wall. Until now, measurements of the water and salt content of a fresco have only been possible by taking samples of the paint or drilling holes through the painting to obtain a sample of wall plaster. Paradoxically, just to assess a painting’s condition, researchers had first to damage it a little. The new SUSI tool could now offer researchers the opportunity to obtain the data they need without damaging the fresco.
The surface of the painting is scanned with a sensor device the size of a video camera. Water and salt molecules in the plaster absorb the microwave radiation: then the scanner registers the returning signal and the computer determines the level of moisture or salinity. The equipment was developed over two years, first in a laboratory using plaster samples prepared by the restorers of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure – the Factory of Hard Stones - and then on real frescoes, mainly in Florence.
So far the scientists have tested their new detector on such frescoes as the Paradise Wall of the chapel of Santa Maria Maddalena de Pazzi, painted by the studio of Giotto; and the frescoes in the cloister of St Antonino at the Convent of St Mark, painted by Bernardino Pocetti, both in Florence.
The technology could be versatile, says Dr Olmi. “We have also started to refine the device for use on other types of art. For example, we have used SUSI to measure the humidity and salt content of the famous Robbiane ceramics in the sanctuary of La Verna in Arezzo. However, paintings and old parchment are too thin for the device at the moment and we will need to refine it before we can use it on these kinds of works.”
Helen MacBain | alfa
Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences