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Homer by Rembrandt, dated 1663, public domain.

Finden Ltd’s work with microfocus X-ray beams at Diamond Light Source recently appeared in an article on the Physics World website,  “Diamond Light Source – when a tool becomes a gem”.

“Stephen Price, a researcher at Finden and formerly a Diamond Light Source scientist, is currently working with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on a sample of Rembrandt’s painting “Homer”, which dates back to 1663. As he explains, the sample is of a white bloom or crust that forms on the painting despite the best efforts of conservationists. His aim has been to identify the chemistry of the crust and hopefully determine how to prevent such crusts forming.

“Normally a lab-based diffractometer has quite a large beam profile of a few millimetres in size and the sample here is much less than one millimetre,” says Price, explaining that even if a lab-based X-ray source could identify the phases there would be no spatial information as to whether those phases were at the surface, middle or right by the canvas. “Further to that a lab-based source just doesn’t have the flux to image such a small volume,” he adds.

Using the microfocus X-ray beam at Diamond to scan the sample at different angles, they were able to show how the lead paint had reacted with atmospheric pollutants including sulphur dioxide, which was forming the white crust disfiguring the painting. “Using this information the conservation team at the Rijks can investigate further how to prevent and reverse this degradation process,” says Price.”

Excerpt from article. Read the full article at Physics World.