Analysis of minerals and pigments for heritage science

(supervisor: Andrew Evans)

Nature of project: experimental, data analysis

Available to full-time physicists or joint students.

Project description and methodology

In collaboration with the National Library of Wales, this project is inspired by the need to identify pigments and minerals used in historical documents and art. The identification of the structure and chemical composition of the pigments will also aid restoration and preservation methodologies. The experimental probes must be non-destructive and should ideally be applied in-situ. The focus will be on optical spectroscopy, principally UV-visible absorption spectroscopy and Raman Spectroscopy. Base minerals and synthetic pigments will be initially investigated to determine structure-size-colour correlations.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
There is scope to extent the project to natural pigments and parchment/paper used in historical documents and to investigate the effect of measurement on the materials properties. The project could also be extended to investigate ageing by stimulating the effect of time, atmosphere and temperature.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

Additional scope or challenge if taken as a Year-4 project: There is additional scope for a year 4 MPhys/MEng project to apply further techniques to study the chemical and structural properties of the minerals and pigments. A further challenge is the construction of a fully portable optical spectrometer for off-site application.

Initial literature for students:

  1. Crystal structures of minerals, W.L. Bragg, G.F Claringbull (Primo)
  2. Light scattering in solids. 1, Introductory concepts, edited by M. Cardona (Primo)
  3. Optical characterization of semiconductors : infrared, raman, and photoluminescence spectroscopy, S. Perkowitz (Primo)

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

Moderate to high difficulty that involves the use of research equipment. Technical assistance will be required for the operation of the optical spectrometer and particularly for the other more advanced methods. Technical assistance will also be needed for construction of new equipment.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Outline of optical / remote sensing systemsChristmas
Fabrication of minerals and pigmentsend of February
Data measurement completedEaster
Data analysis finalisedEaster

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form