Synchrotron DUV luminescence micro-imaging to identify and map historical organic coatings on wood
Deep ultraviolet (DUV) photoluminescence (PL) microimaging is an emerging approach to characterise materials from historical artefacts (see M. Thoury, J.-P. Echard, M. Réfrégiers, B. H. Berrie, A. Nevin, F. Jamme and L. Bertrand, Anal. Chem., 2011, 83, 1737–1745). Here we further assess the potential of the method to access a deeper understanding of multi-layered varnishes coating wooden violins and lutes. Cross-section micro samples from important 16th- to 18th-century instruments were investigated using synchrotron PL microimaging and microspectroscopy. Excitation was performed in the DUV and the near ultraviolet (NUV) regions, and emission recorded from the DUV to the visible region, at a submicrometric spatial resolution. Intercomparison of microspectroscopy and microimaging was made possible by radiometrically correcting PL spectra both in excitation and emission. Based on an optimised selection of emission and excitation bands, the specific PL features of the organic binding materials allowed a vastly enhanced discrimination between collagen-based sizing layers and oil/resin-based layers compared to epiluminescence microscopy. PL therefore appears to be a very promising analytical tool to provide new insights into the diversity of surface coating techniques used by instrument-makers. More generally, our results demonstrate the potential of synchrotron PL for studying complex heterogeneous materials beyond the core application of the technique to life sciences.