Paper watermark imaging using electron and low energy x-ray radiography

Zhang, Zhan
Ewert, Uwe
Barrett, Timothy
Bond, Leonard
Bond, Leonard
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Aerospace Engineering
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Mechanical Engineering
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Aerospace EngineeringMechanical EngineeringCenter for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE)

Historians and librarians are interested in watermarks and mould surface patterns in historic papers, because they represent the “fingerprints” of antique papers. However, these features are usually covered or hidden by printing, writing or other media. Different techniques have been developed to extract the watermarks in the paper while avoiding interference from media on the paper. Beta radiography provides good results, but this method cannot be widely used because of radiation safety regulations and the long exposure times required due to weak isotope sources employed. In this work, two promising methods are compared which can be used to extract digital high-resolution images for paper watermarks and these are electron radiography and low energy X-ray radiography. For electron radiography a “sandwich” of a lead sheet, the paper object, and a film in a dark cassette, is formed and it is exposed at higher X-ray potentials (> 300 kV). The photoelectrons escaping from the lead sheet penetrate the paper and expose the film. After development, the film captures the watermark and mould surface pattern images for the paper being investigated. These images are then digitized using an X-ray film digitizer. The film employed could potentially be replaced by a special type of imaging plate with a very thin protection layer to directly generate digital images using computed radiography (CR). For the second method, a low energy X-ray source is used with the specimen paper placed on a digital detector array (DDA). This method directly generates a low energy digital radiography (DR) image. Both methods provide high quality images without interference from the printing media, and provide the potential to generate a “fingerprint” database for historical papers. There were nevertheless found to be differences in the images obtained using the two methods. The second method, using a low energy X-ray source, has the potential to be integrated in a portable device with a small footprint incorporating user safety requirements. Differences obtained using the two methods are shown and discussed.


This proceeding may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and AIP Publishing. This proceeding appeared in Zhang, Zhan, Uwe Ewert, Timothy D. Barrett, and Leonard J. Bond. "Paper watermark imaging using electron and low energy x-ray radiography." AIP Conference Proceedings 2102, no. 1 (2019): 030004, and may be found at DOI: 10.1063/1.5099750. Posted with permission.