Mechanistic Aspects of Excimer Laser Restoration
of Painted Artworks

S. Georgiou, V. Zafiropulos, V. Tomari, and C. Fotakis

Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas, Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser,
P.O. Box 1527, Heraklion, Crete, 71110 Greece


Received September 5, 1997

Abstract—The use of excimer laser ablation for the restoration of painted artworks is reviewed with emphasis
on the plausible short- and long-term effects of the procedure on the state of the paintings. The dependence of
the efficiency of the process and of the surface morphology on laser parameters is discussed. The importance
of photochemical effects is addressed by chromatographic analysis of irradiated realistic samples for the detec-
tion of photoproducts. It is shown that varnish plays a critical role for the success of the technique. The impor-
tance of varnish is further examined in experiments on model samples with photosensitive dopants incorpo-
rated. Factors responsible for the “protecting” role of the varnish are proposed. Finally, the potential conse-
quences of laser-induced photomechanical effects are addressed via the use of holographic interferometry. In
all, these experiments indicate that optimal fluence ranges can be defined for a highly selective and effective
cleaning with minimal or insignificant damaging effects to the substrate.

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