Patented Laser Authentication Technology for Art Lovers


The demand for artwork and antique authentication grows with the blooming art market in Asia. How to authenticate the artworks while leaving the pieces intact has always been a great challenge.


Professor Cheung Nai-ho from the Department of Physics at Hong Kong Baptist University and his research team, have pioneered the use of a non-destructive single-shot P-LEAF technique for the identification of pigments, ceramics and metals in and the in situ examination of objects that are of artistic and historical importance. They can analyse the chemistry of artwork that causes no visible damage to artwork even under high-magnification microscope, different from conventional laser ablative microprobes. The new method measures the chemical information in real-time and achieves 100 to 1,000 times better sensitivity than current methods.


Professor Cheung said, “Conventional laser microprobes typically remove micrograms of material from the artwork surface. This causes visible and irreversible damage to the sample. Using our new technology, only one nanogram or less of the material is vaporised for detection. Damage will not be visible even when examined under a microscope. The fluorescence signal is then analysed by comparing it against our proprietary database to trace the provenance of the artwork.”


In November 2014, Prof Cheung and his former PhD student, Dr Bruno Cai form a technology spin-off company, ANA Artwork Material Analysis Company Limited (ANA) to work with local as well as overseas museums, institutes and private collectors to analyse paintings, ceramics, frescoes and other art objects. Currently, ANA is working closely with local conservation bodies and the French Artwork National Analytical Laboratory (C2RMF) at Louvre Museum in Paris to transform the technique into an important analysis tool for museums and analytical laboratories in artwork and heritage preservation. With this US patented technology and the strong collaboration partners, ANA received the Certificate of Merit from FITMI in 2015 and a gold medal in the category ‘computer sciences’ at the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in April 2016.


Recently, Prof Cheung’s team has further developed an automated P-LEAF system that would potentially give a high commercial value, for example, analysing some questionable legal documents.



Professor Cheung Nai-ho (left) and Dr Bruno Cai (right) the President of ANA Artwork Material Analysis Company Limited demonstrated using the patented laser technique to analyse the chemical information of cinnabars on a Chinese painting.

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