A large panel of scientific methods are applied to gain a better insight into artworks and archaeological artefacts and to improve both conservation and restoration. However, to characterize such precious and sometimes unique relics, non-destructive and non-invasive methods are often preferred. Among them, the chemical analysis by means of ion beams produced by accelerators, yielding the composition with excellent performance and total non-destructiveness, constitutes one of the best choices. Introduced in the sixties as an application of nuclear physics to materials science, ion beam analysis (IBA) methods have constantly been tailored to address artworks and archaeology issues. The particle accelerator AGLAE of the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France located in the Louvre museum is the only one devoted to the study of Heritage. The cornerstone of this 20-year progress is a versatile nuclear microprobe operating in air implementing the full set of IBA techniques (PIXE , PIGE , RBS , NRA and ERDA) to enable extensive research works in art history, archaeology and conservation science. After an introduction to the basic principles of IBA, a virtual tour of this unique facility will be provided. The benefit of its use will be illustrated through a series of case studies, addressing the identification of the cultural heritage materials, the sourcing of supplies, the understanding of alteration and the indirect dating for authentication. The studied works comprise historical paintings, Medieval stained glass from churches and a suspicious Pre-Columbian rock crystal skull.
Nuclear physicist, first implied in the installation of the AGLAE accelerator located in the Louvre museum. After 25 years of activities, diversified his activities to reach the position of conservation scientist at the C2RMF. Author of several textbook chapters on the application of ion beam analysis techniques in heritage (PIXE , PIGE , RBS , NRA and ERDA) and over hundred methodological and application papers in archaeometry.