Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) provides many advantages for analysis of works of art. Both qualitative and semi-quantitative information about the elemental composition of an object can be rapidly obtained using LIBS. The time of response is on the order of a few seconds and no sample preparation is required. The possibility of performing analysis in museums and archeological sites makes LIBS particularly important; the combination of laser ablation and analysis as encountered in LIBS provides means to effectively carry out depth profiling of samples. By combining the use of a microscope, the dimension of the spot of the laser used to carry out analysis can be reduced and the spatial resolution highly improved; in this way, a very small area of the sample (on the order of 10 μm) can be analyzed. The aim of this work is to investigate the best working conditions in order to obtain the least amount of material removal during analysis, and, at the same time, the best quality in the spectral response for rapid and reliable identification of the elemental composition of an object. First, investigations were undertaken using metal alloys; second, the optimized LIBS conditions were used for analysis of models of painting layers prepared in the laboratory. Finally, a painting cross-section and a 19th century painted icon were analyzed using the micro-LIBS setup.
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