Study of the laser cleaning on plaster sculptures. the effect of laser irradiation on the surfaces

C. Pelosi, D. Fodaro, L. Sforzini, A. R. Rubino, A. Falqui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The focus of this paper is to study the effects caused by the laser irradiation on nineteenth and twentieth century plaster sculptures. Before applying the laser cleaning on the sculptures, it was tested on samples prepared in laboratory according to the results of the scientific investigation carried out on the selected works of art. The characterization of the surface finishing materials of the sculptures was performed by Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometry (FTIR), X-ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), UV fluorescence photography, and internal micro stratigraphic analysis. Regarding the finishing materials, shellac, zinc white, siccative oil and proteins were found on the surfaces. The results of the scientific investigation, together with the examination of the ancient technical manuals, were used to create the laboratory samples to carry out the irradiation tests with laser. The laser irradiation and cleaning tests were carried out with a Q-switched Nd:YAG system. The irradiated surfaces were analyzed before and after the laser tests with the aid of a video microscope and a reflectance spectrophotometer, in order to evaluate the color changes of the surfaces. The possible morphological modifications caused by laser irradiation were also investigated by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) together with ancillary Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) elemental analysis. Concerning the laser cleaning test on the samples, in general little color changes were observed both with the 532 and 1064 nm wavelength. Total color changes, expressed as ΔE, are always small apart from the samples made of shellac and zinc white in linseed oil, as finishing layer. As regards these samples the surface irradiated with the laser greyed lightly, corresponding to a decrease of Lparameter (lightness). SEM imaging of the treated and not-treated samples, both at low and high magnification, does not show evidence of significant morphological differences due to the laser beam irradiation. Starting from these results, some laser cleaning tests were carried out on the original sculptures, putting them in comparison with an aqueous cleaning method. It was found that the laser cleaning removes effectively the dirt layer preserving the original finishing on the sculpures' surface, whereas the aqueous cleaning system removes also the finishing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-928
Number of pages12
JournalOptics and Spectroscopy (English translation of Optika i Spektroskopiya)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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