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Issue 46, 2018
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Analytical pyrolysis in cultural heritage


Analytical pyrolysis (Py), especially when coupled with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS), is a powerful technique for the characterisation and identification of organic materials used in artwork. The thermal degradation of macromolecules (for example, resins, lacquers, proteins, polysaccharides, oils, modern synthetic polymers, etc.) using heat (thermal energy) generates smaller molecules (pyrolysis products) which are easier to identify and study. Some of these pyrolysis products are molecular markers allowing the identification of a specific material despite the sample’s complexity. A micro-sample (50–100 μg) is destroyed during the analysis but the lack of sample preparation makes Py-GC-MS a very attractive technique with a much reduced analytical time and cost compared to other chromatographic methods.

Graphical abstract: Analytical pyrolysis in cultural heritage

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Article information

25 Oct 2018
First published
20 Nov 2018

Anal. Methods, 2018,10, 5463-5467
Article type
AMC Technical Brief

Analytical pyrolysis in cultural heritage

Analytical Methods Committee, AMCTB No. 85, Anal. Methods, 2018, 10, 5463
DOI: 10.1039/C8AY90151A

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