Cultural heritage: Diapason, the new ENEA laser scanner, presented at the Ferrara Restoration Exhibition


Diapason is the latest-generation laser scanner developed by ENEA researchers for the protection and dissemination of knowledge of artistic and cultural heritage that was presented at the recent International Restoration Exhibition in Ferrara.

Diapason makes it possible to create a multispectral 3D model of the work being examined thanks to the laser scanner's seven wavelengths – from ultraviolet to near infrared – which allow capturing images that are not altered by ambient light, overcoming the limitations of current devices on the market. These characteristics make it a suitable tool for more easily assessing the “health” of paintings, frescoes, sculptures and archaeological sites.

“Its compact size makes it possible to reduce the costs of taking measurements while avoiding difficulties related to portability and accessibility at certain sites. The post-production work on the acquired images, and thus the study and monitoring of the works, will be simplified by the regularity and ‘cleanness’ of the dataset generated”, explained Massimiliano Guarneri, the researcher at the ENEA Diagnostics and Metrology Laboratory who worked on the prototype.

Capable of operating up to a distance of 15 m from the subject, the device combines the performance of two prototypes already in use at ENEA: one that exploits three wavelengths in the visible spectrum and one with an infrared laser, the latter able to penetrate the first layer of pigment, revealing – for example in oil canvases – changes of mind, preparatory studies and previous restoration work.

“In the past we worked to digitise several important works of art through the combined use of infrared laser and a 3D colour laser scanner, but with a number of logistical complications as we had to use different tools and the post-production work was more expensive”.

Works “captured” using this technique include Self Portrait and Spring by the 17th-century painter Mario De Fiori, preserved in Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia (Rome), as well as the Portrait of Pope Gregory XIII, a 16th-century work by the Italian painter Scipione Pulzone, currently kept at the Villa Sora Salesian Institute in Frascati (Rome), which became famous for recently being part of the artworks displayed in a series of exhibitions organised in Japan as part of the Rising Sun in the Italian Renaissance project, curated by the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum. In this specific case, the 3D model obtained highlighted certain details, such as the handkerchief clutched in the pontiff's right hand and part of the drapery depicted in the upper right corner, which are currently no longer easily visible to the naked eye due to the inevitable darkening of the painting over time.

“From now on, thanks to Diapason, it will be possible to achieve these results through simpler, faster and cheaper operations”, concludes the researcher.

Diapason was not alone in the “recipe for Art” based on hi-tech instrumentation that ENEA presented at the Restoration Exhibition in Ferrara, featuring some 30 technologies, research projects and three infrastructures that are unique in Italy, including vibrating tables, among the largest in Europe for simulating the impact of earthquakes.

Among the topics discussed by the public and researchers were radiation for biodegradation recovery, nuclear technologies for the conservation of cultural heritage, sustainable restoration of works of art through bacteria and phytoderivatives, laser scanners for remote diagnostics, solutions for the deterioration of artefacts due to moisture and for the protection of marble, ICT infrastructure, not to mention experiments on vibrating tables for the prevention of seismic risk or vibrations caused by road and rail traffic. This is the aim, for example, of the MONALISA project, which devised an anti-vibration platform to reduce the effects of daily traffic and to protect the Sarcophagus of the Spouses, one of the greatest masterpieces of Etruscan art, against possible earthquake tremors.

For more information on Diapason:

Massimiliano Guarneri, ENEA - Diagnostics and Metrology Laboratory, Frascati Research Centre,

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