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Nat Commun. 2016 Nov 15;7:13356. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13356.

High spatial dynamics-photoluminescence imaging reveals the metallurgy of the earliest lost-wax cast object.

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IPANEMA, CNRS, ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, USR 3461, Université Paris-Saclay, 91128 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
Synchrotron SOLEIL, 91128 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
C2RMF, Palais du Louvre, 75001 Paris, France.
PréTech, CNRS, Université Paris Nanterre, UMR 7055, 92023 Nanterre, France.
TRACES, CNRS, ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, UMR 5608, 31100 Toulouse, France.
ArScAn, CNRS, Université Paris Nanterre, Université Paris 1, ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, UMR 7041, 92023 Nanterre, France.
Institut de France, 23 quai de Conti, 75006 Paris, France.


Photoluminescence spectroscopy is a key method to monitor defects in semiconductors from nanophotonics to solar cell systems. Paradoxically, its great sensitivity to small variations of local environment becomes a handicap for heterogeneous systems, such as are encountered in environmental, medical, ancient materials sciences and engineering. Here we demonstrate that a novel full-field photoluminescence imaging approach allows accessing the spatial distribution of crystal defect fluctuations at the crystallite level across centimetre-wide fields of view. This capacity is illustrated in archaeology and material sciences. The coexistence of two hitherto indistinguishable non-stoichiometric cuprous oxide phases is revealed in a 6,000-year-old amulet from Mehrgarh (Baluchistan, Pakistan), identified as the oldest known artefact made by lost-wax casting and providing a better understanding of this fundamental invention. Low-concentration crystal defect fluctuations are readily mapped within ZnO nanowires. High spatial dynamics-photoluminescence imaging holds great promise for the characterization of bulk heterogeneous systems across multiple disciplines.

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