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Education and Outreach Programs

Naperville Central High School ESRP 2015

Nanoscale Fingerprinting of Historic Ink


  • Students:
    • Riley J. Brooksher
    • Kyle E. Jensen
    • Andrew T. Li
    • Andrew Z. Shao
  • Teachers:
    • Katherine Seguino
  • Mentors:
    • Volker Rose (Argonne National Laboratory, Advanced Photon Source & Center for Nanoscale Materials)

Center for Nanoscale Materials

Historic inks from a wide range of dates, from as far back as the 5th century, have shown signs of corrosion and degradation. Research into these inks can lead to progress in preserving important handwritten historical documents. We have utilized high-resolution x-ray fluorescence to analyze the elemental composition of a sample of mid-19th century ink. Additionally, the physical characteristics of the paper were analyzed by an optical light microscopy. Optically, torn fibers and vertical ink displacement were observed. Through nanoscale x-ray fluorescence concentrations of each element were identified and compared. The x-ray fluorescence maps indicated the presence of certain key elements in the ink but not paper: namely iron, calcium, nickel. Metallic atoms organized themselves into nanospheres and other organized distributions while metalloids such as Al, Si, and Mn were uniformly distributed. Notable variations include the decrease in chlorine in the sample with ink.

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