Elemental Analysis of Chinese Black Inks on Xuan Paper by ArF Laser-Excited Plume Fluorescence

Yue Cai, Zhengyu Huang, Michelle H.C. Cheung, Vincent Motto-Ros, Po Chun Chu, Yuanwei Wang, Haoyi Zhong, Ronald Yuen, Kelvin S.Y. Leung, Judy T.S. Lum, Sut Kam Ho, Nai Ho Cheung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Chemical analysis of Chinese black ink on xuan paper is useful for the authentication of Asian artwork. The analysis has to be nondestructive and has to accommodate artworks of all sizes. We apply three analytical techniques, ArF laser-induced plume fluorescence, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) to analyze five commercial Chinese black inks on two kinds of xuan paper. The FTIR signal is found to be interfered by the substrate which is inevitable because the pigments diffuse extensively into the xuan fiber network. The XRF signal is shown to be feeble and no signal can be registered until the samples are stacked and when the analytes are present at tens of percent. In contrast, the plume fluorescence technique can detect the minor and trace signature elements. The method is based on a two-laser-pulse scheme performed on a high precision optical setup: the first 355 nm laser pulse ablates a thin layer of the ink to create a plume; the second 193 nm laser pulse induces multi analytes in the plume to fluoresce. Partial-least-squares discriminant analysis of the fluorescence spectra unambiguously sorts the ink-xuan combinations while the sampled area is not visibly damaged even under the microscope. The laser probe can handle samples of arbitrary size and shape, is air compatible, and no sample pretreatment is necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10971-10978
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number22
Early online date26 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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