Opening ceremony, UNESCO Paris, 21 January 2014

Philippe Walter, Director of the Laboratory of Molecular and Structural

Crystallography in the study of art and historical artefacts

Philippe Walter


The study of cultural heritage requires advanced techniques to shed light on ancient technologies and help in their preservation. The implementation of new analytical tools, including mobile laboratories or large-scale facilities such as synchrotron radiation and neutron sources, allows a deep insight into archaeological and artistic materials, from the millimeter to the nanometer scales.

During this lecture, I will show different applications and potential needs of crystallographic studies to characterize the nature and the mode of preparation of different pigments: origin of the minerals, chemical synthesis of new compounds, crushing of crystals, mixing of matters, etc..

The precious character of the most famous works of art and their uniqueness imply particular caution and require X-ray diffraction instruments which may give the maximum information directly on the artefacts, both in situ in a museum or at an archaeological site.


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