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Duke U. discovers new use for laser in art world

The Associated Press, Thursday, July 4, 2013, 12:13pm (PDT)

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A Duke University professor who developed a laser to study melanoma has discovered a new use for it: uncovering what's underneath the surface of painting without damaging it.

Dr. Warren S. Warren's pump-probe laser is being used to create three-dimensional cross-sections of artworks so researchers can see what's beneath the paint.

Duke is working on the project with the North Carolina Museum of Art, which provided a 14th-century painting for the laser to examine. Museum chief conservationist Bill Brown says the laser showed the painting likely was important in its day because it's partly covered with lapis lazuli — a mineral that was more expensive than gold.

John Delaney of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., says the laser isn't ready for prime-time, but says it shows promise.

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