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Laser Ablation for Art Restoration

Photonics.com
Mar 2010
FLORENCE, Italy, March 2, 2010 – Laser ablation has found numerous applications in biomedical and industrial settings. This technique involves removing material from a solid surface by vaporizing the material with a laser beam. Doctors, for example, use laser ablation in medicine to remove unwanted tattoos from the skin. In industry, the technique can remove paints, coatings and other material without damaging the underlying surface.

Now, according to an article in ACS' monthly journal, Accounts of Chemical Research, this technique is being used to preserve sculptures, paintings and other works of art.


Art conservationists cleaned the two angels (Sagrestia Vecchia) – on the left with traditional restoration methods. They cleaned the one on the right using an advanced laser technique, which produced better results. (Image: Salvatore Siano)

In the article, Salvatore Siano and Renzo Salimbeni, physicists from the Applied Physics Institute-CNR of Florence, point out that laser cleaning of artworks actually began about 10 years before the better known medical and industrial applications of the technique.

Siano and Salimbeni say that laser ablation has had an important impact in preserving the world's cultural heritage of great works of art, including stone and metal statues and wall paintings, such as masterpieces like Lorenzo Ghiberti's Porta del Paradiso and Donatello's David.

They also discuss encouraging results of laser cleaning underwater for materials that could deteriorate if exposed to air.

For more information, visit: www.acs.org 


GLOSSARY
laser ablation
The removal of material from a surface by high intensity pulsed or CW laser radiation emission.
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