We have used the TRIGA reactor and the Ion Beam Facility at Cornell to illustrate neutron induced autoradiography and PIXE analysis of known pigments in demonstration paintings made for our undergraduate course, ‘Art, Isotopes and Analysis’. A group of pigments were chosen containing elements with half-lives detectable by the neutron activation process. The pigments (suspended in a binding medium of linseed oil) were first painted on test swatches of acetate and their characteristic x-ray lines measured with a 5 Mev beam of protons directed through a thin Kapton film for external (in air) analysis (PIXE).
Three layers of images, each painted with a different pigment, overlay one another. The painting is then taken to the TRIGA reactor for neutron activation. After activation, the painting is placed in contact with sheets of Polaroid type AR positive transparency film at different times after exposure. The gamma spectra during the sequence are also measured to provide identification of the ‘active’ isotopes during each film exposure.