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World’s only particle accelerator for art deployed at the Louvre

An antique bronze sculpture is analyzed using the AGLAE (Louvre accelerator of elemental analysis), an apparatus for the chemical analysis of art and archaeological pieces, at the labs of the Louvre museum in Paris. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

The world’s only particle accelerator dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre museum in Paris to help experts analyse ancient and precious works.

The 88-foot AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the museum will be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials.

The Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museum of France (C2RMF) has spent 2.1 million euros overhauling and upgrading the machine, which can determine the chemical make-up of objects without the need to take samples.

The AGLAE works by speeding up helium and hydrogen nuclei to speeds of between 20,000 to 30,000 kilometres per second and then bombarding the object, which emits radiation that can be captured and analysed.

Among the first objects to be tested by the newly configured accelerator were Roman votive statues of the household gods, the Lares which were uncovered from the ancient forum of Bavay close to the border with Belgium.

The old accelerator, which was built in 1988, could only work between eight and 10 hours a day, but the new one can function around the clock, the C2RMF said.

- with AFP