Analytical Techniques: Scanning Electron Microscopy

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Author: Jessica Ford

Editors: Anne Schaffer, Kari Rayner

Scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) scans a sample with an electron beam, and the resulting backscatter produces an ultra-high magnification image of the sample along with an elemental map of the viewed surface. The image may be useful for examination of pigments, cracks, lead soap formation, microstructures, and other material qualities. The elemental analysis results are more specific than those from (non-scanning) XRF, because the distribution of elements is visualized; often this technique is employed on a cross-section sample, clarifying the stratigraphic distribution of elements. Also, SEM-EDS is capable of measuring the response of elements with atomic size as small as boron. SEM requires removal of a sample, which usually cannot be reused for other forms of analysis. (Townsend and Boon 2012)

References[edit | edit source]

Townsend, J., and J. Boon. 2012. Research and instrumental analysis in the materials of easel painting. In Conservation of Easel Paintings, edited by J. H. Stoner and R. Rushfield, 341-365. Abingdon, Oxon England: Routledge.