JAN 16, 2018 6:00 AM PST

Atomic Method For Detecting Art Forgery

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

The detection of forged artworks relies heavily on chemistry techniques because many fakes seem so realistic that they are almost indistinguishable from the real works on the surface. 

One of the methods is to look at the radioactive remnants from atomic bomb explosions. Nuclear explosions produce radioactive substances that are naturally rare such as carbon-14 (C-14), a radioactive form of carbon atoms. By measuring a sample from any paintings completed after 1945, when the first nuclear bomb was deployed during world war II, scientists would notice the unusually high amount of C-14 as compared to those completed before 1945. Base on the C-14 time stamp, it is easier for one to tell if the painting is a fake or not. 

But what if both the original and counterfeit paintings were created before the nuclear era? Scientists would rely on another technique called carbon dating. Carbon dating is the gold standard for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, in this case again C-14. 

In Earth's upper atmosphere cosmic ray bombards the nuclei of nitrogen molecules constantly, producing C-14 at a specific rate. The radioactive carbon forms carbon dioxide through reaction with oxygen and then gets incorporated into the cycle of lives on Earth. By measuring the C-14 radiation (which is converted the amount of C-14 atoms) from any artifacts that contains organic materials, and comparing the amount of non-radioactive carbon atoms in the same sample, scientists can generate a ratio that is specific to the time when the source life forms existed. Since canvas and wooden frames are made from organic materials, paintings from older eras can be sampled and tested for carbon ratio and thus the time of their origin. The discrepancy in timeline provides valuable information to distinguish forged paintings from the authentic masterpieces.

Source: It's Okay To Be Smart via Youtube

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
AUG 18, 2020
Microbiology
The Science of Pesto
AUG 18, 2020
The Science of Pesto
  The word pesto comes from the Genovese word pestâ (pestare in Italian) which means “to pound” o ...
SEP 22, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
New photodectector can see the full light spectrum
SEP 22, 2020
New photodectector can see the full light spectrum
New research from a team at RMIT University highlights the development of a hyper-efficient broadband photodetector that ...
SEP 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
SEP 24, 2020
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
Navigating beyond Earth's orbit is tricky. Any misstep in movement could lead to the crushes of space probes and ves ...
OCT 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
OCT 23, 2020
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
Since its birth in the early 20th century, atomic research has brought mostly positive impacts to our lives. This week i ...
OCT 30, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Superconductivity at Room Temperature - Have Scientists Finally Achieved the Impossible?
OCT 30, 2020
Superconductivity at Room Temperature - Have Scientists Finally Achieved the Impossible?
First discovered by Dutch physicist Heike Onnes in the early 20th century, superconductivity is a rare phenomenon observ ...
NOV 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
"CASH" system optimizes materials development with machine learning
NOV 18, 2020
"CASH" system optimizes materials development with machine learning
New research published in APL Material from scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology reports on the development o ...
Loading Comments...