The Cooperative Research project "Advanced workstation for controlled laser cleaning of artworks" (ENV4-CT98-0787) has yielded important information on the application of UV laser cleaning to paint materials. In the project, in which conservators, researchers and engineers participated, the viability of the laser technique as an additional tool in present conservation practice was investigated. The research was pointed at the definition of the boundary conditions in which laser cleaning can be safely applied. It included a systematic effect study of tempera paint systems. Physical and chemical changes, induced by exposure to UV (248 nm) excimer laser light under various conditions, were evaluated. In parallel, an innovative laser cleaning tool was developed, allowing accurate and controlled removal of superficial layers from paint materials. Both aspects of the project are presented. The presentation of the research focuses on the integration of the results from various analytical techniques, yielding valuable information on the immediate and long-term effects of UV laser radiation on the paint materials. The analytical techniques include colorimetry, spectroscopic techniques, mass spectrometry and profilometry, as well as thermographic and UV transmission measurements. Furthermore, the application of the laser workstation on various painted artworks is shown. This includes the gradual removal of varnish layers and the recovery of original paint colour in fire-damaged paintings.

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Journal J. Cultural Heritage
Teule, R, Scholten, H, van den Brink, O.F, Heeren, R.M.A, Zafiropulos, V, Hesterman, R, … Albuquerque, M.-B. (2003). Controlled UV laser cleaning of painted artworks: a systematic effect study on egg tempera paint samples. J. Cultural Heritage, 4, 209–215. doi:10.1016/s1296-2074(02)01137-8