Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 May 2011
Ion beam analysis (IBA) techniques are a powerful analytical tool used to investigate the composition and structure of precious materials principally because they can be applied in atmosphere. Thus, the sample can be analyzed as is, and heating and charging effects are strongly diminished. Since IBA measurements can be made with low ion currents and acquisition time, the damage risk is limited. At the microbeam line of the LABEC laboratory, it is possible to exploit the potentials of IBA techniques in an external set up to reconstruct the distribution maps of all the detected elements over the analyzed area with spatial resolutions as low as 10 μm. This is an important feature when objects with inhomogeneous structures—on a scale of hundred microns or so—are investigated, as happens in some cases with artworks. The detection set up installed on our external microbeam allows us to use different IBA techniques simultaneously. Thus, in a single measurement run, it is possible to obtain complementary information on both sample composition and structure. Some applications to works of art are presented here as examples of the analytical capabilities of the external scanning microbeam in the cultural heritage field.