Chemistry

William and Mary grad student heads to Amsterdam to analyze Rembrandt

William and Mary grad student heads to Amsterdam to analyze Rembrandt

The bag of dried cochineal insects and the half-million-dollar laser microscope in chemistry professor Kristin Wustholz's laboratory represent the past and future of the science of art.

For thousands of years, lowly bugs like this have been ground up and processed to produce rich red paints, while the laser microscope is being used increasingly to study those old pigments at the molecular level, helping conservators understand exactly what went into great works of art. Literally.

The laser technology is called surface-enhanced Raman scattering spectroscopy, or SERS, developed in the 1970s but only in the past decade or so adapted to study the makeup of oil paints. Wustholz...

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