A bid to decipher Roman-era scrolls carbonised in the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius has led to the discovery of a Particle Accelerator to reveal 2000 year old secrets.
Researchers have turned to Diamond, Britain’s national synchrotron in Didcot, Oxfordshire, to examine the papyri, which are described as “fragile like butterfly wings“.
They hope the synchrotron—which harnesses the power of electrons to produce powerful scans—could now end a decades-long effort to read the historic artefacts owned by the Institut de France.
A normal idea of a scroll is that you can just unroll it and read it,
These scrolls can’t be unrolled because the carbonisation makes them completely brittle and that brittle nature would damage it completely if you tried to bend it at all.
Instead, the Diamond facility acts like a giant microscope, producing light 10 billion times brighter than the sun that allows scientists to study anything from fossils and jet engines to viruses and vaccines.
When the beam goes through the sample, it creates the possibility of an image that we can’t really create any other way.