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Proceedings Paper

Spin-offs from laser ablation in art conservation
Author(s): J. Asmus; J. Elford; V. Parfenov
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Paper Abstract

In 1973 The Center for Art Conservation Studies (CASS) was established at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). This was in response to demonstrations that were conducted during January-March 1972 in Venice for UNESCO, Venice in Peril, International Fund for Monuments, and the Italian Petroleum Institute (ENI). The feasibility investigation explored in-situ pulsed holography, holographic interferometry, and laser ablation divestment for applications in art conservation practice. During subsequent decades scores of UCSD graduate and undergraduate students as well as conservators, conservation scientists, academics, and engineers who resided in CASS as “Visiting Scholars” contributed to advancing the understanding and performance of radiation technologies in the arts. Several technologies in addition to those involving optical wavelengths were also investigated to aid in art conservation and conservation science. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) were employed to detect and map moisture within masonry. Lead isotopic analyses revealed authenticity and provenance of Benin bronzes. Inside-out x-ray radiography facilitated the detection of defects in stone. Ultrasonic imaging was introduced for the mapping of fresco strata. Photoacoustic Spectroscopy (PAS) was used to characterize varnish layers on paintings. Digital image processing was introduced in order to detect and visualize pentimenti within paintings as well as to perform virtual restoration and provide interactive museum displays. Holographic images were employed as imaginary theater sets. In the years that followed the graduation of students and the visits of professional collaborators, numerous other applications of radiation ablation began appearing in a wide variety of other fields such as aircraft maintenance, ship maintenance, toxic chemical remediation, biological sterilization, food processing, industrial fabrication, industrial maintenance, nuclear decontamination, dermatology, nuclear weapons effects simulation, and graffiti control. It was readily apparent that the customary diffusion of advanced technologies from science and industry into the art conservation field had been reversed. In this paper we trace the migration and adaptation of radiation divestment developments in art conservation to numerous applications in science, industry, and consumer products. Examples described include the robotized hybrid “Flashjet” aircraft paint stripping system, the “Novotronic” anthrax remediation installation in the Pentagon Building, the InTa automated graffiti removal system employing a carbon dioxide TEA laser, the Bellalite body hair removal product incorporating flashlamp technology, and the Foodco line of optical radiation products for the sterilization of food products. The Foodco products are also applied to the sterilization and/or pasteurization of beverages and beverage containers. A similar device has been adapted to seafood irradiation in order to increase shelf life, as well as for the ablative removal of skin and scales. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, to etch logos and identification information into the sidewalls of pneumatic tires, also developed a flashlamp-based ablation technology. The founders of the CYMER Corporation applied UV irradiation technology to the manufacture of high-performance integrated circuits (viz., memory chips, etc.) In several instances former CASS students and Visiting Fellows consciously adapted the above-learned art conservation methodologies to still other purposes. Thus, these examples of technology transfer may be termed: “Art in the service of Science.” Alternatively, it is evident that many associated innovations developed from independent activities, unconnected serendipity, or through the normal diffusion of information and knowledge across disciplines.

Paper Details

Date Published: 30 May 2013
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 8790, Optics for Arts, Architecture, and Archaeology IV, 879002 (30 May 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2020421
Show Author Affiliations
J. Asmus, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)
J. Elford, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)
V. Parfenov, St. Petersburg State Electrotechnical Univ. (Russian Federation)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8790:
Optics for Arts, Architecture, and Archaeology IV
Luca Pezzati; Piotr Targowski, Editor(s)

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