Past Projects

X-ray reading of ancient books

Manuscripts from the Venice “Archivio di Stato” and comparison between a visible picture and an x-ray image of an ancient iron-gall-ink writing


Our current work primarily concerns new techniques to virtually “read” ancient manuscripts using x-rays. Potentially, tomography would make it possible to computer-extract page-by-page written information from sets of projection images, drastically reducing the manipulation of the volumes and consequently decreasing the risk of damage.

In general, x-ray imaging of the writings is possible because of the use, for many centuries and all over Europe, of ironbased black inks generically denominated “iron gall” and of colored inks containing other heavy elements. Therefore, the chemical nature of ancient inks and its evolution over the centuries.

The chemistry results are then linked to the quality of x-ray images. We use different imaging techniques, absorption, phase contrast, tomography, and different x-ray sources. 

Our research is linked of the “Digital Humanities Venice” (DHV) project, an international program involving the EPFL, the University Cà Foscari (Venice), the Archivo di Stato and several other partners. DHV will trasform the “Archivio di Stato” – 80 km of archival manuscripts documenting many aspects of a millennium of Venetian history in a digital information bank. This will reveal unknown aspects of European history. But the sheer mass of data is an impediment against their exploitation — that will be removed by the DHV project.

Our work is an important component of this effort, targeting the development of x-ray tomography techniques to facilitate this task and speeding up the entire digitization process. This is accompanied by our hands-on knowledge of the use of advanced chemistry and physics techniques to study cultural heritage artifacts.




  1. From closed testaments to books : Virtual X-ray Reading as alternate digitization technology for fragile documents
    F. Albertin, M. Romito, E. Peccenini, M. Bettuzzi, R. Brancaccio, M.P. Morigi, M. del Rio, D. Raines, G. Margaritondo, D. Psaltis (2017)
  2. Virtual reading of a large ancient handwritten science book
    F. Albertin, A. Patera, I. Jerjen, S. Hartmann, E. Peccenini, F. Kaplan, M. Stampanoni, R. Kaufmann and G. Margatondo, Microchemical Jounal, pp. 185-189 (2016)
  3. X-ray spectrometry and imaging for ancient administrative handwritten documents
    F. Albertin, A. Astolfo, M. Stampanoni, E. Peccenini, Y. Hwu, F. Kaplan and G. Margatondo, X-ray Spectrometry (2015)
  4. Ancient administrative handwritten documents: X-ray analysis and imaging
    F. Albertin, A. Astolfo, M. Stampanoni, E. Peccenini, Y. Hwu, F. Kaplan and G. Margatondo, J. Synchrotron Rad. (2015)
  5. The new birth of radiology – more than one century after Röntgen
    G. Margatondo, Y. Hwu, Nuovo Saggiatore, 29, 45 (2013)
  6. K-edge radiography: comparison of two detectors
    F. Albertin, Nuovo Cimento, 34C, 227 (2011)
  7. A quasi-monochromatic X-ray source for art painting pigments investigation
    F. Albertin, A. Franconieri, M. Gambaccini, D. Moro, F. Petrucci, S. Chiozzi, Appl. Phys. A96, 503 (2009)


Superresolution imaging

We are exploring superresolution in optical imaging with STED and structured illumination.  We are exploring methods for taking advantage of optical nonlinearities to improve resolution.


Professor Colin Sheppard, Italian Institute of Technology, Genova, Italy

Professor Rafael Piestun, University of Colorado, Boulder


  1. STED imaging of green fluorescent nanodiamonds containing nitrogen-vacancy-nitrogen centers
    Gregoire P. J. Laporte, and Demetri Psaltis, Biomedical Optics Express vol 7, Issue 1, 34-44 (2016)
  2. Enhanced resolution in a multimode fiber imaging system; Gregoire P. J. Laporte, Nicolino Stasio, Christophe Moser, and Demetri Psaltis, Optics Express,Vol 23, Issue 21, 27484-27493 (2015)
  3. Resolution enhancement in nonlinear scanning microscopy through post-detection digital computation, Gregoire P. J. Laporte, Nicolino Stasio, Colin J.R. Sheppard, and Demetri Psaltis, Optica, Vol 1, Issue 6, 455-460 (2014)
  4. Double-helix enhanced axial localization in STED nanoscopy, Gregoire P. J. Laporte, Donald B. Conkey, Andreas Vasdekis, Rafael Piestun, and Demetri Psaltis, Optics Express, Vol 21, Issue 25, 30984-30992 (2013)

Click here to view the Poster.