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World’s only particle accelerator for art to shed light on precious works at Louvre

The world's only particle accelerator dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre in Paris Thursday to help experts analyse ancient and precious works.

World's only particle accelerator for art to shed light on precious works at Louvre
Photo: AFP
The 37-metre (88-foot) AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the huge Paris museum will be now be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials.
  
The Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museum of France (C2RMF) — which is independent of the Louvre — has spent 2.1 million euros ($2.5 million) overhauling and upgrading the machine, which can determine the chemical make-up of objects without the need to take samples.
   
“Up to now we almost never analysed paintings because we were afraid the particle beam might change the colours” when it hit the pigments in the paint, director Isabelle Pallot-Frossard told AFP.
   
The AGLAE works by speeding up helium and hydrogen nuclei to speeds of between 20,000 to 30,000 kilometres (12,400 to 18,600 miles) per second and then bombarding the object, which emits radiation that can be captured and analysed.
 
Among the first objects to be tested by the newly configured accelerator were Roman votive statues of the household gods — the Lares — which were said to protect the home.
  
They were uncovered from the ancient forum of Bavay close to the border with Belgium.
  
The old accelerator — which was built in 1988 —  could only work between eight and 10 hours a day, but the new one can function around the clock, the C2RMF said.

TRAVEL NEWS

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro

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