Microfading tester (MFT)

Brand: The MFT is a custom-built instrument using three basic components to measure color under high-intensity illumination:

1. A light source (currently we are using an Apex portable xenon arc lamp from Newport Corp., with filters to eliminate ultraviolet and infrared radiation)

2. Optics to deliver and focus the light onto and to collect reflected light from a very small area on an object surface (available from Ocean Optics or from Newport)

3. A photodiode array spectrophotometer (Control Development Corp.).

This configuration is analogous to the Fading Test System that is sold by Newport Corp.

Software: Spec32 software (provided with Control Development’s photodiode array spectrophotometer).

Capabilities: The instrument delivers a light dose equivalent to a few years of gallery exposure during the test, which takes minutes to perform. Materials whose colors are sensitive to light will react during the test. Because the microfading test is essentially nondestructive (leaving no trace of altered color where the test is performed), presentation surfaces of objects can be quickly screened for their lightfastness in future exhibition conditions.

Practical use: These tests can identify at-risk colors on objects, paintings, prints – essentially any colored material – and the information can inform the lighting conditions that might be chosen for their display, the rotation schedule, or perhaps the decision whether to exhibit or loan an object at all. It can also target sensitive colors that should be monitored to track changes from future exhibition. In addition to identifying colors that are vulnerable to light exposure, the tests can also indicate that an object, which might have been suspected of having sensitive colors, is in fact reasonably robust and not in need of extraordinary protection measures.

Contact: Paul Whitmore or Pablo Londero