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Spectroscopic analysis of furniture and wooden objects

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We offer microscopic examinations for damage analysis, material testing, forgery detection, and age determination. We partner with specialists from renowned institutions and specialized laboratories like the Rathgen Research Laboratory (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung), the Technical University of Berlin, and the Technical University of Munich for various testing methods. Especially in the case of a non-destructive material analysis during restoration preparation,  spectroscopy has proven effective.

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Spectroscopic analysis:

Why do we use it?

We use spectroscopic analysis mainly for non-destructive material analysis and age determination, damage analysis, or forgery detection. In the preliminary examination and development of a suitable restoration concept, we use non-destructive methods for the material analysis of high-quality art objects, valuable old pieces of furniture, works of art, and wooden objects. That way, we do not have to take samples.

Historical furniture, art objects, and furnishings were often made from materials that are not common anymore or have already been repaired, reworked, or restored over time. With bare eyes, it is usually not possible to see which materials were used or which modifications were made.

Numerous different materials could have been used during the manufacturing process:

  • Oils
  • Proteins
  • Wax
  • Resin
  • Glue
  • Coatings
  • Varnish
  • Glaze
  • Colorants
  • Color pigments

Identifying these in a non-destructive, reliable, and accurate as possible manner is essential for the selection of suitable materials and the development of a conservation and restoration strategy in wood as well as in furniture restoration.

How does spectroscopy work?

With the help of spectroscopic examinations, we can identify each component of the materials used in furniture making and the fabrication of a work of art based on its specific interaction with electromagnetic radiation.

Spectroscopic methods use the following ranges of optical radiation:

  • Light of the visible spectral range (vis) in the wavelength range 400 to 780 nanometers measured with UV/Vis spectroscopy
  • NIR spectroscopy (near-infrared) works with light between 780 and 2,500 nanometers in wavelength
  • IR spectroscopy (infrared radiation) based on radiation in the range of 780 nanometers to 1-millimeter wavelength
  • Ultraviolet radiation (UV) in the wavelength range from 100 to 400 nanometers measured by UV/Vis spectroscopy
  • X-ray radiation (XR) refers to electromagnetic waves less than 10 nanometers in length

Which methods of spectroscopic examination does ZRW Berlin apply?

The different spectroscopic laboratory methods used for various fields of application:

  • Wood age determination with infrared spectroscopy (IR spectroscopy)
  • Non-destructive color measurement using UV/Vis/NIR-spectroscopy and FT-IR-spectroscopy
  • Material analysis: In addition to the spectroscopic analysis methods of UV/Vis/NIR spectroscopy and FT-IR spectroscopy, we use energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX, EDRS, or EDS) as a material analysis method in combination with a scanning electron microscope (SEM)

Which materials can be identified using spectroscopy

The following materials can be clearly and non-destructively analyzed and identified using the spectrometer's imaging:

  • Carbohydrates and polysaccharides such as gum, cellulose, and sugars, for example, gum tragacanth, honey, starch, cotton, and viscose (regenerated cellulose).
  • Glass and related materials
  • Natural and synthetic inorganic minerals, pigments and fillers, corrosion products, for example, kaolinite, malachite, barium sulfate, cuprite, and calcium oxalate
  • Blends, i.e., materials with constituents from several classes, such as paint films and composites, as well as commercial products and formulations such as verdigris in linseed oil, alkyd Prussian blue, or glass fiber
  • Terpenoid-containing natural resins, hydrocarbons, and related compounds such as pine resin, mastic, bitumen, myrrh, amber, and natural rubber.
  • Natural and synthetic organic dyes, for example, alizarin, indigo, copper resin, or gum gutta
  • Oils and fats and all materials containing proteins, such as egg, bone glue, silk, or casein
  • Chemically synthesized resins (synthetic resins) and associated additives such as plasticizers, chemically modified cellulose, for example, Paraloid B72, polyvinyl acetate, Dartek, polyethylene glycol, cellulose nitrate, or chlorinated rubber
  • Waxes of animal, vegetable, or fossil origins, such as beeswax, carnauba wax, and ceresin wax
  • Materials that are not readily classifiable, for example, surfactants such as Renex KB or organic sedimentary rocks such as coal

Zentrale Restaurierungswerkstatt Berlin:

Spectroscopic examination with a plan

After analyzing the findings, we will be happy to advise you whether a spectroscopic examination of your object in need of restoration makes sense and which method of spectroscopy promises the best yield. Wherever possible, our certified restorers at the Zentralen Restaurierungswerkstatt Berlin use non-destructive and mobile spectroscopic methods in cooperation with renowned scientific laboratories and institutions. Only in exceptional cases may it be necessary to take small amounts of sample material for examination.

Let us find out in a personal consultation what's best for your antique furniture or work of art.

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