Special Issue "Contribution of X-ray Fluorescence Techniques in Cultural Heritage Materials Characterisation"

A special issue of Applied Sciences (ISSN 2076-3417). This special issue belongs to the section "Applied Physics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Anna Galli
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Dipartimento di Scienza dei Materiali, Università degli Studi Milano-Bicocca, 20125 Milano, Italy
Interests: development of techniques and instrumentation for EDXRF analysis; radiation effects in insulators and dosimetry techniques; methods and applications of luminescence dating
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Letizia Bonizzoni
E-Mail
Guest Editor
Dipartimento di Fisica, Università degli Studi di Milano, 20122 Milano, Italy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Archaeometry and Cultural Heritage have lately taken great advantage of developments in scientific techniques, offering valuable information to archaeology, art history, and conservation science, involving both instrumental and non-instrumental approaches. Among the possible techniques, X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) has become one of the most applied techniques for Cultural Heritage elemental material characterization, due to its user-friendliness; fast, short acquisition times; portability, and most of all, its absolutely non-destructive nature. For this reason, besides being often a first choice for a preliminary overall materials investigation, XRF spectrometers and spectra data handling methods have continuously improved, giving rise to many variations of the same technique; portable spectrometers, micro-probes, and large area scanners are all variations of a very flexible technique. This Special Issue is intended to collect papers dealing with any of the analytical techniques related to XRF spectroscopy appropriate for applications to Cultural Heritage materials. Paper subjects can range from instrumentation and technical developments to case studies requiring methodological innovations, from theoretical simulations to new data handling. All the variations of XRF spectroscopy will be considered: portable or mapping spectrometers, synchrotron based XRF, total reflection or grazing techniques, and synergical association with any other non-destructive analytical techniques.

This Special Issue is dedicated to the loving memory of professor Mario Milazzo, a pioneer of Archaeometry in Italy, awarded in 2002 the Gold Medal for Culture by the Italian President. He is remembered as a generous and pleasant man with an insightful, logical mind, who was able to find an appropriate joke for every situation. Many of us, following his footsteps in the research field of applied physics for Cultural Heritage, still appreciate his vision, teaching and impact on our lives.

Dr. Anna Galli
Dr. Letizia Bonizzoni
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • XRF
  • pXRF
  • Micro XRF
  • XRF mapping
  • Synchrotron based XRF
  • Cultural heritage materials
  • Archaeometry

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Article
Archaeological and Chemical Investigation on the High Imperial Mosaic Floor Mortars of the Domus Integrated in the Museum of Archaeology D. Diogo de Sousa, Braga, Portugal
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(17), 8267; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11178267 - 06 Sep 2021
Viewed by 322
Abstract
This paper intends to characterize the floor mortar layers (nucleus, rudus and statumen) of the high imperial mosaics of the domus integrated in the Museum of Archeology D. Diogo de Sousa, the oldest roman housing testimonies known in Braga, Portugal. [...] Read more.
This paper intends to characterize the floor mortar layers (nucleus, rudus and statumen) of the high imperial mosaics of the domus integrated in the Museum of Archeology D. Diogo de Sousa, the oldest roman housing testimonies known in Braga, Portugal. It offers an important archaeological and historical contextualization and first chemical characterization attempt on the mortars. The study of 13 mortar samples was carried out at a chemical level through X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF). All samples presented low lime content when compared to similar studies. A high chemical similarity between nucleus mortars (opus signinum) and chemical composition differences between rudus and statumen mortars was determined, confirmed by statistical analyses. Their composition was distinctly related to the stratigraphic position of each floor mortar layer, following Vitruvius’ model, and to the external conditions and treatments (e.g., capillary rise with soluble salts and application of chemical treatments), to which they were submitted. Full article
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Article
Synchrotron X-ray Microprobes: An Application on Ancient Ceramics
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(17), 8052; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11178052 - 30 Aug 2021
Viewed by 407
Abstract
Synchrotron X-ray µ- and nano-probes are increasingly affirming their relevance in cultural heritage applications, especially in material characterization of tiny and complex micro-samples which are typical from archaeological and artistic artifacts. For such purposes, synchrotron radiation facilities are tailoring and optimizing beamlines and [...] Read more.
Synchrotron X-ray µ- and nano-probes are increasingly affirming their relevance in cultural heritage applications, especially in material characterization of tiny and complex micro-samples which are typical from archaeological and artistic artifacts. For such purposes, synchrotron radiation facilities are tailoring and optimizing beamlines and set-ups for CH, taking also advantages from the challenges offered by the third-generation radiation sources. In ancient ceramics studies, relevant information for the identification of production centers and manufacture technology can be obtained in a non-invasive and non-destructive way at the micro-sample level by combining different SR based methods. However, the selection of appropriate beamlines, techniques and set-ups are critical for the success of the experiments. Fine and varnished wares (e.g., Attic and western-Greek colonial products) are an excellent case study for exploring challenges offered by synchrotron X-ray microprobes optimized to collect microchemical and phase-distribution maps. The determination of provenance and/or technological tracers is relevant in correctly classifying productions, often based only on ceramic paste, gloss macroscopic features or style. In addition, when these vessels are preserved in Museums as masterpieces or intact pieces the application of non-invasive approach at the micro sample is strictly required. Well-designed synchrotron µXRF and µXANES mapping experiments are able providing relevant clues for discriminating workshops and exploring technological aspects, which are fundamental in answering the current archaeological questions on varnished Greek or western-Greek colonial products. Full article
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Article
MA-XRF for the Characterisation of the Painting Materials and Technique of the Entombment of Christ by Rogier van der Weyden
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(13), 6151; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11136151 - 02 Jul 2021
Viewed by 445
Abstract
At present, macro X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF) is one of the most essential analytical methods exploited by heritage science. By providing spatial distribution elemental maps, not only does it allow for material characterisation but also to understand, or at least to have a likely [...] Read more.
At present, macro X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF) is one of the most essential analytical methods exploited by heritage science. By providing spatial distribution elemental maps, not only does it allow for material characterisation but also to understand, or at least to have a likely idea of, the production techniques of an analysed object. INFN-CHNet, the Cultural Heritage Network of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, designed and developed a MA-XRF scanner aiming to be a lightweight, easy to transport piece of equipment for use in in situ measurements. In this study, the INFN-CHNet MA-XRF scanner was employed for the analysis of a painting by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden. The painting belongs to the collection of the Uffizi gallery in Florence and was analysed during conservation treatments at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, one of the main conservation centres in Italy. The research aims were to characterise the materials employed by the artist and to possibly understand his painting technique. Although MA-XRF alone cannot provide a comprehensive characterisation, it nonetheless proved to be an invaluable tool for providing an initial overview or hypothesis of the painting materials and techniques used. Full article
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Article
More than XRF Mapping: STEAM (Statistically Tailored Elemental Angle Mapper) a Pioneering Analysis Protocol for Pigment Studies
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 1446; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11041446 - 05 Feb 2021
Viewed by 453
Abstract
Among the possible variants of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), applications exploiting scanning Macro-XRF (MA-XRF) are lately widespread as they allow the visualization of the element distribution maintaining a non-destructive approach. The surface is scanned with a focused or collimated X-ray beam of millimeters or [...] Read more.
Among the possible variants of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), applications exploiting scanning Macro-XRF (MA-XRF) are lately widespread as they allow the visualization of the element distribution maintaining a non-destructive approach. The surface is scanned with a focused or collimated X-ray beam of millimeters or less: analyzing the emitted fluorescence radiation, also elements present below the surface contribute to the elemental distribution image obtained, due to the penetrative nature of X-rays. The importance of this method in the investigation of historical paintings is so obvious—as the elemental distribution obtained can reveal hidden sub-surface layers, including changes made by the artist, or restorations, without any damage to the object—that recently specific international conferences have been held. The present paper summarizes the advantages and limitations of using MA-XRF considering it as an imaging technique, in synergy with other hyperspectral methods, or combining it with spot investigations. The most recent applications in the cultural Heritage field are taken into account, demonstrating how obtained 2D-XRF maps can be of great help in the diagnostic applied on Cultural Heritage materials. Moreover, a pioneering analysis protocol based on the Spectral Angle Mapper (SAM) algorithm is presented, unifying the MA-XRF standard approach with punctual XRF, exploiting information from the mapped area as a database to extend the comprehension to data outside the scanned region, and working independently from the acquisition set-up. Experimental application on some reference pigment layers and a painting by Giotto are presented as validation of the proposed method. Full article
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Article
The Importance of Being Versatile: INFN-CHNet MA-XRF Scanner on Furniture at the CCR “La Venaria Reale”
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(3), 1197; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11031197 - 28 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 720
Abstract
At present, the use of non-destructive, non-invasive X-ray-based techniques is well established in heritage science for the analysis and conservation of works of art. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) plays a fundamental role since it provides information on the elemental composition, contributing to the identification [...] Read more.
At present, the use of non-destructive, non-invasive X-ray-based techniques is well established in heritage science for the analysis and conservation of works of art. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) plays a fundamental role since it provides information on the elemental composition, contributing to the identification of the materials present on the superficial layers of an artwork. Whenever XRF is combined with the capability of scanning an area to provide the elemental distribution on a surface, the technique is referred to as macro X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF). The heritage science field, in which the technique is extensively applied, presents a large variety of case studies. Typical examples are paintings, ceramics, metallic objects and manuscripts. This work presents an uncommon application of MA-XRF analysis to furniture. Measurements have been carried out with the MA-XRF scanner of the INFN-CHNet collaboration at the Centro di Conservazione e Restauro “La Venaria Reale”, a leading conservation centre in the field. In particular, a chinoiserie lacquered cabinet of the 18th century and a desk by Pietro Piffetti (1701–1777) have been analysed with a focus on the characterisation of decorative layers and different materials (e.g., gilding in the former and ivory in the latter). The measurements have been carried out using a telemeter for non-planar surfaces, and with collimators of 0.8 mm and 0.4 mm diameter, depending on the spatial resolution needed. The combination of the small measuring head with the use of the telemeter and of a small collimator has guaranteed the ability to scan difficult-to-reach areas with high spatial resolution in a reasonable time (20 × 10 mm2 with 0.2 mm step in less than 20 min). Full article
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