Ion beam analysis

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Ion beam analysis (IBA) is an important family of modern analytical techniques involving the use of MeV ion beams to probe the elemental composition and obtain elemental depth profiles in the near-surface layer of solids. All IBA methods are highly sensitive and allow the detection of elements in the sub-monolayer range. The analyzed depth ranges from a few ten nanometers to a few ten micrometers. IBA methods are often quantitative with an accuracy of a few percent. The ion beam (proton, deuteron, helium 3 or 4 ion… are delivered by high voltage (some MV) accelerators, generally linear accelerators. Some ion beam analysis facilities, the majority of them in Europe, have a continuous activity (research & services) dedicated to cultural heritage issues: Berlin & Dresden-Rossendorf (Germany), Florence (Italy), Guildford (United Kingdom), Madrid (Spain), Paris (france)... As an example, C2RMF in Paris is the only laboratory in the world, equipped with its own accelerator dedicated to cultural heritage artefacts analysis, AGLAE (Accélérateur Grand Louvre pour l'Analyse Elémentaire), a National Electrostatics Corp. 2 MV tandem accelerator.

The palette of Ion Beam Analysis covers the following techniques. - PIXE: Particle Induced X-ray Emission gives the trace and minor elemental composition - PIGE: Particle-induced gamma-ray emission can be used to detect some light elements - RBS: Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry is sensitive to heavy elements in a light matrix - ERDA:: Elastic Recoil Detection Analysis is sensitive to light elements in a heavy matrix - NRA: Nuclear Reaction Analysis is sensitive to particular isotopes - Secondary Particle Induced X-ray Fluorescence: can permit to detect and analyse light elements in high atomic number matrixes

On one particular beam line, one can find different radiation or particle detectors which are dedicated to a specific measurement method. The quantitative evaluation of IBA methods requires the use of specialized simulation and data analysis software. SIMNRA and DataFurnace are popular programs for the analysis of RBS, ERDA and NRA, while GUPIX is popular for PIXE. IBA is still an area of active research

Practical applications of these methods, as a single tool, or as complementary ones when the beam line is adequately equipped, are applied to a large scope of cultural heritage issue: analysis and provenance of metals, alloys, gemstones, ceramics, glass; identification and mapping of pigments; studies of altered or corroded surfaces of metals, ceramics, glass, enamels; microanalysis of drawings, manuscripts; ultra precise measurement of corrosion speed on metallic environmental sensors…

Synonyms and related terms

IBA; analyse par faisceau d'ions (Fr.)

Additional information

  • G. Demortier, A. Adriaens, Ion beam study of art and archaeological objects. A contribution by members of the COST G1 action, Report EUR 19218 (2000)
  • Proc. ECAART-8 2004, 8th European Conference on Accelerators in Applied Research and Technology, September 20-24 2004, Paris, North-Holland, 606 p (2005)
  • I. Reiche, Applications of accelerator-based methods, Vienna summer school 2010 Radiation physics in cultural heritage studies (September 20-25 2010)


  • T. Calligaro, JC. Dran, M. Dubus, B. Moignard, L. Pichon, J. Salomon, P. Walter, Les objets de musée sous le projecteur d’AGLAE, Techné, 13-14 (2001) 41-48
  • J.C. Dran, T. Calligaro, J. Salomon, Particle-induced X-ray emission, in Modern analytical methods in art and archaeology, Wiley Interscience, New York, 2000, 135–166
  • T. Calligaro, JC. Dran, E. Ioannidou, B. Moignard, L. Pichon, J. Salomon, Development of an external beam nuclear microprobe on the AGLAE facility of the Louvre museum. Proc. IBA 14 Dresden (Jul 1999), in NIM-B 161-163 (2000) 328-333
  • T. Calligaro, JC. Dran, B. Moignard, L. Pichon, J. Salomon, P. Walter, Ion beam analysis with external beams: recent set-up improvements, Proc. ECAART 7, Guildford, (2002), in NIM-B, 188 (2002)135-140
  • Anonymous (IAEA), Nuclear analytical techniques in archaeological investigations, Technical reports series N° 416, IAEA, Wien, 2003
  • M. Rossbach, Ion beam analysis for cultural heritage, Jülich Forschunszentrum(2009)

  • J. Salomon, J.-C. Dran, T. Guillou, , F. Mathis, B. Moignard, L. Pichon, P. Walter, Ion-beam analysis for cultural heritage on the AGLAE facility: impact of PIXE/RBS combination, Applied Physics A, July 2008, Volume 92, Issue 1, pp 43-50
  • P. A. Mando, Nuclear Physics techniques and methods for Cultural Heritage, INFN, Firenze (2012),

  • N. Grassi , L. Giuntini, P.A. Mandò, M. Massi, Advantages of scanning-mode ion beam analysis for the study of Cultural Heritage, Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 256, 2, March 2007, 712–718
  • HMI – ISL – Berlin (Germany)

  • C2RMF - Paris (France)