Comparison between nanosecond and femtosecond laser pulses for the removal of spray paint from granite surfaces

Julia Brand*, Alison Wain, Andrei V. Rode, Steve Madden, Penelope L. King, Ludovic Rapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the removal of spray paint from heritage granite surfaces using a nanosecond pulse laser and compared the results, in terms of the effectiveness of treatment and preservation of the stone surface from potential damage, with results obtained using a femtosecond pulse laser. We show that, with the nanosecond laser, the ablation threshold of the stone was measured at 0.5 J·cm-2, but it was only possible to remove certain types of spray paints, such as blue and green paints, at a higher fluence of 0.9 J·cm-2. To remove other types of paints, such as red and yellow, it was necessary to increase even further the laser fluence to 1.5 J·cm-2, well above the ablation threshold of the stone. In this case, damage was induced in the minerals, such as melting of biotite, and a general roughening of the other minerals’ surfaces was observed. Despite nanosecond pulse lasers being more widespread for cleaning purposes, we demonstrate that femtosecond pulse lasers allowed better effectiveness in removing various colours of paint, without leaving residues, while keeping the laser energy below the damage threshold of the underlying stone, allowing complete preservation of the substrate, and avoiding the melting of the most sensitive mineral grains (particularly biotite). We determined the ablation efficiency of spray paint using the femtosecond pulse laser and found a maximum ablation regime centered around 6.2 J·cm-2, at 8.36 mm3·(min·W)-1. This study highlights the benefits of using a laser with femtosecond pulses instead of longer pulse durations (nanosecond range) for the preservation and maintenance of heritage stone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-338
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


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