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Investigation of ICP-MS and ICP-OES as scientific methods for the identification of dye mordants on wool and silk

In contrast to the use of surface techniques such as SEM, SIMS and XPS, ICP-MS and ICP-OES allow the identification of metal ions in the bulk of an historical sample. However, the more-sensitive technique (ICP-MS) showed prohibitively large interference of ArO+, which meant that quantitative data for Fe were difficult to obtain. This was not a problem with ICP-OES, but, using current state-of-the-art instrumentation, quantities of sample required for analysis are prohibitively large for application to historical artefacts. These techniques are very sensitive to the presence of contaminants, such as those arising from dirt and dust particles, so that the detection of a given metal ion does not necessarily mean that it was used as a mordant.

Using these techniques we have shown:
- the presence of Al, Fe, Cu, Cr, Pb in model and/or historical samples (WP5);
- a concentrating effect of Fe3+ if this species is present as a contaminant in alum when used as a mordant; these results support the historical records which specify "pure" sources of alum for optimum dyeing results (minimising the dulling effects of iron contaminants) (WP2/5)

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University of Edinburgh
Kings Building, West Mains Road
EH9 3JJ Edinburgh
United Kingdom
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