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Tom Ako

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The use of optical spectroscopy to identify the matrix and the applied furnace conditions (during fabrication) of glasses


This master thesis is situated in the framework of a collaborative research project between the Applied Physics and Photonics department and the research group Art Science and Archaeology of the VUB and concerns the characterization of ancient glass by using optical spectroscopy as analytical tool.

In general glass production consists of the melting of three main constituents: a network former (such as silica = sand) and two types of network modifiers. After the production of the base material, small portions of transition metals could be added to obtain colored glass. During history the glass production experienced a continuous evolution which makes that a glass’ composition shows distinct regional and chronological differences. As a consequence the knowledge about the chemical composition of an artifact reveals important information about its historical context.

To determine the chemical composition of the glass, most often X-ray and electron based techniques are applied which are very complex, expensive and destructive. Our research group has proven that optical spectroscopy can be seen as a supplementary tool for a first-line classification of glass artifacts based on composition; and this in a fast, easy, inexpensive and non-destructive way. The three most important optical parameters for the classification are the following:

- The overall spectral shape in a certain wavelength region together with an identification of the presence/absence of the absorption bands that are characteristic for a certain chemical element or bonding.

- The color calculated from the measured transmission spectrum.

- The UV absorption edge (for naturally colored glasses) which corresponds to the wavelength characterized by a transmission equal to 50% of the maximum transmission value. 


Two main goals are defined in this master thesis:

  • To study the influence of the glass matrix (soda based, potash based, lead based, …) on the above mentioned optical parameters. Each glass matrix corresponds to a different network structure resulting in a specific spectral shape.
  • To study the redox conditions for different glass systems.

Type of work:

20% literature study 

80% experimental work

-  Measurement & analysis of optical spectra

-  Measuring the chemical composition with a Scanning-Electron-Microscope 

Link to webpage or article related to the subject :

A. Ceglia, W. Meulebroeck, K. Baert, H. Wouters, K. Nys, H. Thienpont, H. Terryn

Cobalt absorption bands for the differentiation of historical Na and Ca/K rich glass

Surface and Interface Analysis, 2011



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Andrea Ceglia Supervisor
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