Tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) for in situ identification of indigo and iron gall ink on paper. Academic Article uri icon


  • Confirmatory, nondestructive, and noninvasive identification of colorants in situ is of critical importance for the understanding of historical context and for the long-term preservation of cultural heritage objects. Although there are several established techniques for analyzing cultural heritage materials, there are very few analytical methods that can be used for molecular characterization when very little sample is available, and a minimally invasive approach is required. Tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) is a powerful analytical technique whose key features include high mass sensitivity, high spatial resolution, and precise positioning of the tip. In the current proof-of-concept study we utilized TERS to identify indigo dye and iron gall ink in situ on Kinwashi paper. In addition, TERS was used to identify iron gall ink on a historical document with handwritten text dated to the 19th century. We demonstrate that TERS can identify both of these colorants directly on paper. Moreover, vibrational modes from individual components of a complex chemical mixture, iron gall ink, can be identified. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of in situ TERS for colorants of artistic relevance directly on historical materials. Overall, this work demonstrates the great potential of TERS as an additional spectroscopic tool for minimally invasive compositional characterization of artworks in situ and opens exciting new possibilities for cultural heritage research.

published proceedings

  • J Am Chem Soc

altmetric score

  • 36.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Kurouski, D., Zaleski, S., Casadio, F., Van Duyne, R. P., & Shah, N. C.

citation count

  • 60

complete list of authors

  • Kurouski, Dmitry||Zaleski, Stephanie||Casadio, Francesca||Van Duyne, Richard P||Shah, Nilam C

publication date

  • June 2014