Unilateral NMR applied to the conservation of works of art

Eleonora Del Federico, Silvia A. Centeno, Cindie Kehlet, Penelope Currier, Denise Stockman, Alexej Jerschow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In conventional NMR, samples from works of art in sizes above those considered acceptable in the field of art conservation would have to be removed to place them into the bore of large superconducting magnets. The portable permanent-magnet-based systems, by contrast, can be used in situ to study works of art, in a noninvasive manner. One of these portable NMR systems, NMR-MOUSE®, measures the information contained in one pixel in an NMR image from a region of about 1 cm2, which can be as thin as 2-3 μm. With such a high depth resolution, profiles through the structures of art objects can be measured to characterize the materials, the artists' techniques, and the deterioration processes. A novel application of the technique to study a deterioration process and to follow up a conservation treatment is presented in which micrometer-thick oil stains on paper are differentiated and characterized. In this example, the spin-spin relaxation T 2 of the stain is correlated to the iodine number and to the degree of cross-linking of the oil, parameters that are crucial in choosing an appropriate conservation treatment to remove them. It is also shown that the variation of T 2 over the course of treatments with organic solvents can be used to monitor the progress of the conservation interventions. It is expected that unilateral NMR in combination with multivariate data analysis will fill a gap within the set of high-spatial-resolution techniques currently available for the noninvasive analysis of materials in works of art, where procedures to study the inorganic components are currently far more developed than those suitable for the study of the organic components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Art conservation
  • Low-field NMR
  • Oil stains
  • Transverse relaxation
  • Unilateral NMR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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