Particle Induced X-ray Emission

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In the cultural heritage area, the more frequent mode of Ion Beam Analysis is PIXE (Particle Induced X-ray Emission). It is a nondestructive elemental analytical technique. When a material is exposed to an ion beam, ionisation interactions occur that give off X-rays which are characteristic of the encountered elements. PIXE is a powerful yet non-destructive elemental analysis technique now used routinely by geologists, archaeologists, art conservators and others to help answer questions of provenance, dating and authenticity. The technique was first proposed in 1970 by Sven Johansson of Lund University, Sweden. The main characteristics of PIXE are: - Analysis can be performed directly on the object, but restricted to its surface, with an open air beam facility, through a very thin window (for instance 0.1 m Si3N4), and with the help of an helium flux between the window and the surface of the analyses object (no sampling) - Atomic number of the detected elements Z > 9 to 11 (O to Na) - Practical minimum detection limit: approximately 10-9, thus possibilities of trace detection and/or analysis - Approximate beam spot diameter: 10 m to 1 mm on the surface of the object, and step by step scanning device Recent extensions of PIXE using tightly focused beams (down to 1 μm) gives the additional capability of microscopic analysis. This technique, called microPIXE, can be used to determine the distribution of trace elements in a wide range of samples.

Recent applications involved: establishing the geographical origin or various gemstones, mapping of inclusions in gemstones, of pigments in illuminated manuscripts, analysis of metal pin Renaissance drawings by A. Dürer or Pisanello, characterisation of ancient metallurgical processes, study of the glazing technique of Renaissance terracotta statues or lustre ceramics, study of the lixiviation process of buried lead glasses….

Synonyms and related terms


Additional information

  • T. Calligaro, JP. Poirot, G. Querré, Trace element fingerprinting of jewellery rubies by external beam PIXE. NIM-B 150 (1999) 628-634

T. Calligaro, JC. Dran, JP. Poirot, J. Salomon, PIXE/PIGE characterisation of emeralds using an external micro-beam. Proc. IBA 14 Dresden (Jul 1999). in NIM-B, 161-163 (2000) 769-774

  • T. Calligaro, JC. Dran, J.P. Poirot, G. Querré, Ion Beam Analysis techniques: a powerful set of tools for the identification and sourcing of ancient gems, Proc. III Congreso Nacional de Arqueometria, Sevilla (Sept. 1999), 197-206
  • A.M.B. Olsson, T. Calligaro, S. Colinart, JC. Dran, NEG. Lovestam, B. Moignard, J. Salomon, Micro-PIXE analysis of an ancient Egyptian papyrus: Identification of pigments used for the "Book of the Dead", NIM-B 181 (2001) 707-714
  • M. Eveno, M. Dubus, A. Duval, M. Elias, Study of a 9th century illuminated manuscript from St Amand by PIXE, spectrophotometry and X-ray diffraction, in "Non-destructive testing and micro-analysis for the diagnostic and conservation of the Cultural and environmental Heritage", Proc. Art 2002, Antwerpen, (2002)
  • C. Remazeilles, T. Calligaro, JC. Dran, L. Pichon, V. Quillet, J. Salomon, PIXE elemental mapping on original manuscripts with an external micro-beam. Application to manuscripts damaged by iron-gall ink corrosion, NIM-B 181 (2001) 681-687
  • A. Duval, PIXE analysis of metal point drawings. Proc. 6th International Conference on "Non-Destructive Testing and Microanalysis for the Diagnostics and Conservation of the Cultural and Environmental Heritage". Vol. 2. Roma, (17-20 May 1999), 1007-1022
  • I. Reiche, A. Berger, A. Duval, W. Görner, H. Guicharnaud, H. Merchel, M. Radke, J. Riederer, H. Riesemeier, Non-destructive investigation of Dürer’s silver point drawings by PIXE and SR-XRF, in "Non-destructive testing and micro-analysis for the diagnostic and conservation of the Cultural and environmental Heritage", Proc. Art 2002, Antwerpen, (June 2002)
  • L. Montalbano, G. Casu, A. Duval, C. Frosinini, H. Guicharnaud, Italian metal point drawings: international studies of the artistic technique, Proc. 13th ICOM-CC triennial meeting, Rio de Janeiro, James & James, London (2002)
  • M.F. Guerra, T. Calligaro, JC. Dran., C. Moulherat, J. Salomon, Development of a PIXE, PIGE and PIXE-XRF combination for the analysis of the gold from the First Empire of the Steppes, Geoarcheological and Bioarchaeological Studies
  • J. Opitz-Coutureau, A. Denker, C. Couzon, R. Denk, M. Griesser, H. Winter, E. Nagel, Zerstörungsfreie Elementanalyse durch Hochenergie-PIXE an mittelalterlichen „Wiener Pfennigen" und mongolischen Bronze- Fundmünzen aus Karakorum; Proc. Symposium „Numismatics & technology: questions and answers", Kunsthistorisches Museum (25-26 April 2003) Vienna.
  • A. Zucchiatti, A. Bouquillon, JR. Gaborit, B. Moignard, J. Salomon, Study of Italian renaissance sculptures using an external beam nuclear microprobe. Proc. IBA 14 Dresden (Jul 1999) in NIM-B 161-163 (2000) 699-703
  • A. Zucchiatti, A. Bouquillon, G. Lanterna, F. Lucarelli, PA. Mando, P. Prati, J. Salomon, MG. Vaccari, PIXE and µ-PIXE analysis of glazes from terracotta sculptures of the della Robbia workshop, Proc. ECAART 7, Guildford, in NIM-B 188: (2002) 358-363
  • A. Bouquillon, J. Castaing, JR. Gaborit, E. Vartanian, A. Zink, A. Zucchiatti, Etude des oeuvres robbiesques au centre de Recherche et de Restauration des musées de France. in Les Della Robbia, sculptures en terre cuite émaillée de la Renaissance italienne, RMN, Paris, 2002
  • M.F. Guerra, The study of the characterization and provenance of coins and other metalwork using XRF, PIXE and Activation Analysis. In Radiation in Art and Archaeometry. Eds. D.C. Creagh and D.A, Bradley. Elsevier, Amsterdam. (2000). pp417-444