Wednesday, March 02, 2005

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: The "atomic paring-knife" laser. Cool.
'Atomic Paring Knife' Will Help Probe Ancient Civilizations

Newswise � Mississippi State researchers are acquiring a high-tech laser instrument described as an �atomic paring knife� that will be used, among other things, to probe the mysteries of ancient civilizations.

Hailed as the first such unit of its type in the Southeastern United States, the university�s Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer will provide organizations across Mississippi�academic, non-profit and industrial�with unique capabilities for quantitative surface analysis and depth profiling.


�The new laser ablation (precise removal) system provides a rapid, non-destructive way of tracing pottery to its source,� Peacock, an environmental archaeologist, said.

Plodinec said the system uses a laser to gently scratch the sample surface, ejecting a small amount of material into plasma, where the atoms are separated by mass.

�The instrument provides a complete, rapid and accurate compositional analysis of almost any materials�stone, glass, ceramics, metals�with no sample preparation and minimal damage to the original sample,� said DIAL assistant research professor Adriana Giordana, who is coordinating the technological effort for the lab.


MSU will be using the instrument on local Native American artifacts, but the potential applications for other archaeological research are obvious.

(Via Archaeologica News.)

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