The detailed description of corrosion processes in ancient and historical metal artifacts currently relies on the in-depth study of prepared cross sections. The in-plane elemental and phase distributions can be established from a combination of light and electron microscopy characterization. Here, we show that high-resolution virtual sectioning through synchrotron X-ray microcomputed tomography allows a precise noninvasive 3D description of the distribution of both internal and external mineral phases in whole objects. In fragments of early copper artifacts (third-second millennium BC) from Southern Mesopotamia and the Indus valley, this approach provided essential clues on long-term corrosion processes. Major and minor phases were identified through semiquantitative evaluation of attenuation coefficients using polychromatic X-ray illumination. We found evidence for initially unidentified phases through statistical processing of images. We discuss interpretation of the distribution of these phases. A good correlation between the corrosion phases identified by CT and by invasive BSE-SEM is demonstrated. In addition to the stratigraphy of the copper corrosion compounds, we examine and discuss the variations observed in the attenuation coefficients of Cu(I) phases. Semiquantitative synchrotron X-ray microtomography phase mapping requires no specific sample preparation, in particular polishing or surface finishing, and any material tearing or displacement is avoided. We also provide evidence for the noninvasive observation of phases rapidly altered upon preparation of real cross sections. The method can be applied when cross-sectioning even of minute fragments is impossible.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry