IPERION CHIntegrated Platform for the European Research Infrastructure ON Cultural Heritage


Synchrotron SOLEIL is the French national synchrotron facility created by CNRS and CEA. It is a 3rd generation source of synchrotron radiation and a leading facility for the characterisation of ancient materials. It provides access to synchrotron experiments for the analysis of micro samples and heritage artefacts through all the beamlines of the facility. Methods offered to access include speciation analyses in complex heritage materials: XAS, photoemission, etc., imaging techniques all over the electromagnetic spectrum: infrared, UV/visible, soft X-rays, hard X-rays, and advanced structural characterization: X-ray diffraction, small angle X-ray scattering. During the program, the 2D and 3D hard X-ray imaging beamline PUMA (Photons used for ancient materials, start date: 2016) will open to users. PUMA will be the only synchrotron beamline fully optimized and dedicated to the investigation of cultural heritage materials.

With a very high level of expert advice / support, and through specific Calls for Trans-National Access, SOLEIL supports users who can work at the various beamlines through a local contact – one of the scientists working on a given beamline. Users are assisted in conducting the experiment at various levels: preparation of the experiment, data acquisition and data processing. With over 950 new users and 197 new laboratories in 2013, SOLEIL counted 2037 users from 703 laboratories for this year only. Considering SOLEIL as a whole, about 34 % of the users come from foreign institutions (out of which 82 % from EU and associated countries).

At the synchrotron site, IPANEMA (‘European Institute for the non-destructive photon-based analysis of ancient materials’) is a research platform entirely devoted to the study of ancient samples and artefacts. IPANEMA facilitates the access of users to synchrotron beamlines at SOLEIL and other European large-scale facilities by easing contacts between specialists, co-preparing research proposals, providing technical support (adapted sample environment, support to sample preparation, complementary analyses, data processing) and developing research methodologies in imaging and data analysis. IPANEMA organises scientific events and training courses. The IPANEMA building complies with museum standards for the conservation of ancient and historical artefacts. The new research platform is unique at the international level.

Among many other methods, synchrotron 2D imaging (at a resolution of a few micrometres or below) allows acquiring high-definition spectral images. Elemental composition (X-ray fluorescence), chemical (X-ray absorption, infrared microscopy) and structural / textural information (X-ray diffraction) can be mapped. Imaging is crucial for the understanding of sample stratigraphy, study of ageing mechanisms and impact of treatments. Synchrotron micro-computed tomography enables the 3D reconstruction of the materials’ density composing samples or artefacts at micrometric scales. Reducing the pixel size additionally tends to decrease the complexity due to the lower number of chemical species contributing to each spectrum collected, thus simplifying further data processing. IPANEMA is fully involved in the development of the PUMA beamline.

Contact person
Name: Loïc Bertrand