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Art Laser

March 23, 2010

Lasers play an increasingly important role in restoring great works of art.


Zapping art with lasers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Doctors use lasers to vaporize warts and unwanted tattoos, among other things. But art conservationists also use lasers to clean masterpieces. Salvatore Siano of the Institute for Applied Physics in Florence, Italy has co-authored a paper reviewing the state of the art. He says the key is to fine-tune the laser’s pulse duration. The length of each discrete burst of laser energy – which ranges from billionths to millionths of a second.

SALVATORE SIANO (Institution):
The temperature rise, the mechanical release to the target, and other physical aspects strictly depend on pulse duration.

His team cleaned ancient silver coins better by using the laser underwater, and made laser cleaning safer for frescoes by determining the exact damage thresholds of about a dozen different paint colors. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.