Greek scientists use lasers to clean Acropolis

Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:55am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Deborah Kyvrikosaios

ATHENS (Reuters) - In the past two and a half thousand years, the temples of the Acropolis have suffered fire, bombing and earthquake. Now, scientists are trying to save them from a new modern enemy: pollution.

Standing on a hilltop at the center of Athens, a city of 4 million people, the Acropolis' elaborately sculptured stones have fallen prey to a film of black crust from car exhaust fumes, industrial pollution, acid rain and fires.

A team of Greek engineers and restorers are using an innovative laser technology system to clean the surface of the ancient monuments, uncovering colors and ornamentation hidden for decades.

"It is very serious," said Maria Ioannidou, director of the Acropolis Restoration Service, of the pollution. "It destroys sculptural, structural and painting details. One of our aims is to regain these cultural details using new technology."

For years the team tested 40 different methods, including mechanical and chemical processes, to find the safest solutions to restore the white of the marbles without losing detail.

The winner was the brainchild of Crete's Foundation for Research and Technology, which created a system that uses two laser beams of infrared and ultraviolet rays simultaneously.

These rays have been used separately to clean ancient marble, but it was found that one left a yellow tint while the other left a gray one. The new system blasts off layers of black film leaving the marble details intact, without discoloration.

But it is a risky process.   Continued...

 
<p>A general view shows the porch of the Caryatids of the Erectheion temple on the Acropolis in Athens, October 16, 2008, as a restorer (bottom L) works to remove a film of black crust caused by pollution from the surface using laser beams. A team of Greek engineers and restorers are using the innovative laser technology system to clean the surface of the ancient monuments, uncovering colours and ornamentation hidden for decades. Picture taken October 16, 2008. REUTERS/John Kolesidis</p>