Graphene Scanner Goes Deep in the Paint

TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2015

LLANERA, SPAIN--Technology that can capture images deep beneath paint layers, or even inside a sealed object, is close to becoming a market reality, according to the European consortium.

Graphene-based imaging is behind the project known as INSIDDE (INtegration of cost-effective Solutions for Imaging, Detection, and Digitization of hidden Elements in paintings), now concluding its third and final year in Spain.

Although currently driven by the need to examine, conserve and protect images of paintings and 3D art objects, the team behind the technology says its potential is unlimited.

In the art world, the technology can be used to examine, reveal and image underlying contents, identify pigments and substances, and examine defects and brushstrokes below the surface.

The multinational research consortium behind the project includes experts from the University of Oviedo, technology, end users versed in international research, and museums. The project coordinator is Treelogic.

How It Works

The scanner, now in prototype form, works in different frequency bands within the terahertz (THz) region. The scanner uses graphene, the wonder substance that is 200 times stronger than steel by weight, conducts heat and electricity, and is nearly transparent.


Pictures obtained with the scanner are combined with image processing techniques and 3D high-performance scanning to generate images of sealed 3D objects.

Since becoming the topic of Nobel Prize-winning research in 2010, graphene has become the focus of more than 25,000 patent applications, including many for coatings products.

In the scanner, graphene "acts as a frequency multiplier," Samuel Ver Hoeye, a telecommunications engineer on the project, explained in a research announcement.

"It is able to generate higher frequency signals out of lower frequencies, in a relatively easy way. Graphene also allows us to go deeper into the work of art, and to identify the chemical composition of its materials."

Pictures obtained with the scanner are combined with image processing techniques and 3D high-performance scanning to generate images of sealed 3D objects, allowing the examination of hidden surfaces, the team said.


Researchers explain the graphene scanning technology being developed by the INSIDDE consortium.

The scanner can examine both 2D and 3D surfaces and was designed to be less expensive than current scanners used for artwork. The model is also compact enough to be transported among museums and labs.

An App for That

Data from the scanner is also being used to develop a smartphone application based on Augmented Reality, the team says.

“The application allows the user to actually see inside the painting," said research project coordinator Javier Gutiérrez Meana.

"For instance, in (one) painting, we’ve discovered a mysterious number 34 drawn underneath the color layers. We also discovered that one of the capes was originally green.”

Researchers hope that the graphene scanner and its applications could become a market reality in less than five years.


Tagged categories: Coating inspection; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Graphene; Maintenance + Renovation; Technology

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