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Andor Camera Brings Sound of Ancient Wind Instruments to Life

Image Credits: Andor Technology Ltd.

Following the discovery of the instruments in the library of the Sacred Convent of Assisi, Italy, each was subjected to non-invasive and non-destructive X-ray and neutron beam tomography and radiography imaging at the Paul Scherrer Institute’s SINQ (Swiss Spallation Neutron Source) in Switzerland. An Andor iKon-L CCD camera and scintillator captured the signals in both neutron and X-ray set-ups to characterise and model the original construction and internal structure of the instruments, and catalogue the damage and deterioration wrought by the passage of time.

The large sensor of the Andor iKon-L brings outstanding resolution, sensitivity and dynamic range, providing new and exact conformational information on these valuable, historical musical artefacts. The information about construction techniques is of great significance for sound quality. In particular, we can see in detail how the finger holes were shaped, the adjustments made in the main borehole design to improve the tonal quality of the instruments, and the deterioration that has occurred over hundreds of years. Using this data, we can now reconstruct for the first time what they would have sounded like when first played.

Dr Giulia Festa, Department of Physics, University of Rome

Frontal and lateral neutron and X-ray radiographies were performed for each instrument and neutron and X-ray tomographies on the transverse flute were also performed. The combination of the neutron and X-ray techniques, with their complementary penetrative powers, allowed analysis of the internal structure, especially the structure of the finger holes and main bore hole, with the neutron characterisation showing the effect of wood deformations and providing the wood fibre displacement data.

The work of Dr Festa and her team, together with the skills of the SINQ scientists and restorers, shows that the combined use of neutron and X-ray techniques provides unique information on the conformation of historical musical instruments. We are proud that the high performance Andor iKon-L camera could play a part in this effort and help to better define future restoration techniques.

Antoine Varagnat, Andor

To learn more about the iKon-L series and other Andor scientific cameras, please visit


G. Festa, G. Tardino, L. Pontecorvo, D.C. Mannes, R. Senesi, G. Gorini, and C. Andreani. “Neutrons and music: Imaging investigation of ancient wind musical Instruments” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 336 (2014) 63–69


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