DT Systems in Action – Multispectral Imaging

When Duke University needed to recover a damaged ancient text, they chose the DT Atom Rapid Capture Station and Multispectral Imaging Module to see beyond the visible spectrum, and bring the lost text back to life.


Here at DT’s Industrial division, we understand that your mission success depends on safe, high-quality evaluation of your most valuable assets, and that uncovering every detail or defect is of paramount importance. It’s this philosophy that has led us to design systems like the Atom Rapid Capture Station, for reliable, high-throughput, compromise-free imaging.


But what if your precious assets are damaged and need to be recovered? Can a system originally designed to qualify mission-critical materials analyze irreversibly damaged ones and retrieve valuable information?




That’s why Duke University Libraries chose to work with us when they needed to recover the text from a badly damaged thousand-year-old scroll – a piece of the Ashkar-Gilson Old Testament. As one can see from the picture below, the artifact had suffered significant deterioration over the centuries.

Ashkar Gilson MS 14, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University


Mike Adamo, an Imaging Specialist at the library Duke’s Digital Production Developer and a member of the project lead for the multi-departmental Ashkar-Gilson archiving effort, believed that an advanced multispectral imaging system might be able to reveal the damaged portions of the text. For a highly specialized project such as this, Duke needed a highly customized system with delicate material handling, extremely fine resolution, and infrared, ultraviolet, and visible (IR/UV/Vis) multispectral capabilities to see past the damage. But in order to justify acquiring such a system, it had to be versatile enough to use for conventional imaging as well.


When it came to choosing a platform to meet those requirements,  the DT Atom Rapid Capture Station was the perfect base for building the right solution.


“The Atom is a nice little copy stand/lighting setup,” said Mike. “The column motor is quiet, smooth and accurate, and while it isn’t really built for oversized material, the modular nature of the unit makes it very versatile.”


After the Atom was selected as a platform, the next step was developing the Multispectral Imaging Module. Featuring a bespoke variant of the venerable Phase One IQ2 60MP digital back without a UV, IR, or Bayer color filter array, the Achromatic (or Achro as it came to be affectionately known) was leagues above traditional machine vision cameras and monochromator solutions in field size, resolution, and dynamic range. In conjunction with specially designed filters and LED panels, the system was able to isolate narrow bands in the UV, visible, and IR spectra, tracking spectral response in thin slices from 370 to 940nm 380 to 1100 nm. The system’s adjustable filter wheel made fluorescent imaging possible as well.


Once the system was in place, Duke began their imaging project, and after an intensive period of testing, training, and troubleshooting, made a breakthrough. were immediately met with breathtaking success. Rather than try and describe it, it should suffice to show you what they saw:

In this IR 940 image, using light well beyond the visible range of the human eye, the underlying text was revealed, and could be read and translated. Furthermore, having been captured in such high resolution, it was possible to accommodate remote access to expert researchers from other institutions the result was instantly available for sharing with researchers from institutions all over the world, opening the doors for collaboration and specialist insight.


“MSI is an effective tool for a specific set of research questions and materials,” said Mike.  “It has helped end users see text that has been obscured or effaced, [and] revealed content that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Results have varied from revealing no new information to revealing information that could facilitate new scholarship. We have continued to capture additional Ashkar-Gilson fragments of with great success.”


When asked about his overall thoughts on the system, and reasoning behind choosing the DT Atom-based multispectral imaging system Mike had this to say:


“The MSI system is much more complex [than standard imaging], but with experience the system and analysis of the resulting images becomes more efficient.  The fact that the system uses a Phase One digital back and camera was one of the main reasons we decided to go with this system. While additional software and hardware are needed to make the MSI rig run, it is reassuring that Phase One and Digital Transitions are an integral part of the system.”


It should be noted that as of 2018, the Atom product ecosystem has expanded greatly, bringing powerful new automation solutions to the table with the 100 megapixel iXG camera system and DT AutoColumn camera computerized positioning system. This Duke system, designed in 2016, used more manual precursors to each of these innovations –  a 60 megapixel iXR camera system, and a simple motorized Atom Column.


With these new innovations, workflow can be significantly streamlined. A precise autofocus system can instantly shave hours of precious time off of one’s workflow, while also allowing for continuous sharp focus throughout the multispectral imaging sequence, as focus shifts slightly for different bands of light. This focusing feature is built into the powerful Capture One software suite, and is complemented with another Capture One tool for quickly and precisely adjusting the camera position on the column. These automated tools make rapid, high quality imaging simple.


To find out more about how DT can help you accomplish your goals, contact us…[include links here on website]


Products featured in this article:


DT Atom, Phase One IQ2 60 Achromatic Digital Back, Schneider-Kreuznach 120mm f/4 Macro Lens

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