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Infrared thermography, implemented by Jean-Claude Barré is one of the most promising methods to try to understand, looking from the outside, what happens inside a monument just behind the faces. The principle is simple but its implementation requires sophisticated instruments and highly experienced operators.
This technique is based on a physical law: all materials are emitting an energy radiation in function of their temperature. They emit infrared waves measured by cameras equipped with sensors. Thanks to a digital model, the cameras generate images where each color corresponds to a given temperature. Widely used to reveal heat loss in poorly insulated homes, it allows locating the presence of defects in buildings. Thus, a cold air current will be represented in blue, whereas a heat source in red. These specialized cameras are also capable of quantifying the emissivity of materials. No materials absorb, transmit, nor reflect radiation in the same manner...
Infrared thermography is commonly used in the aerospace industry for the nondestructive testing of materials. The measurement principle is as follows: the material, the object or the test structure is heated slightly at first. If an internal, therefore non-visible, anomaly is present, the corresponding thermal signature reveals its presence by slight surface temperature differences. This signature is not instantly measurable, but appears after a given time in function of the depth of the anomaly and its own characteristics. Thermal measurements are performed by an infrared camera which records the changes of the surface temperature in the form of thermal images versus time. A number of techniques are available to then improve the thermal images obtained, detecting and characterizing defects. Similarly, various heating techniques also exist to stimulate the object or the test structure.
One of these techniques consists in modulating the heating source repeatedly in a predetermined pattern (e.g. a sinus) and record the thermal response obtained with the infrared camera. The recorded images are then processed (e.g., Fourier transform) and reduced to a single image that condenses all the information related to the internal defects of the object. In the case of large objects such as a building, the solar radiation is an interesting modulated heat source, offering natural periodic variations over a large area (for example the daily cycle: day / night). Interestingly, the slower will be the periodic variation of the heating, the deeper will the generated thermal wave penetrate into the material. Thus, a thermal wave generated by a day / night cycle is able to probe several centimeters in a concrete wall, while the thermal shock caused by the annual cycle of seasons (hot temperature in summer and cold in winter) generate heat waves penetrating deeper. That’s why the annual seasonal variations in temperature are the preferred approach to the study of the Pyramids in search of possible internal cavities near their surface.
Muons come from the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere where they were created from collisions between cosmic rays of our Galactic environment and the nuclei of atoms in the atmosphere. They fall to the ground at nearly the speed of light with a constant rate of about 10,000 per m2 per minute. As for the X-rays passing through our bodies allowing to visualize our skeleton, these elementary particles, like heavy electrons, can very easily pass through any structure, even large and thick rocks, such as mountains. Detectors, placed at appropriate places (e.g. inside the pyramid, under a possible yet undetected chamber) allow, by accumulation of muons over time, to discern the void areas (that muons crossed without problem) from denser areas where some of them were absorbed or deflected. The difficult aspect of this technique is to create highly sensitive detectors - either gels like the ones used for silver prints 18 or scintillators. Then to accumulate enough data (in several days or months) to emphasize the contrasts. Muons radiography is now frequently used for the observation of volcanoes, including research teams from the University of Nagoya. More recently KEK developed a detection approach based on electronic scintillators which are resistant to nuclear radiation, unlike chemical emulsions, in order to scan inside the Fukushima nuclear plant reactors.
Photogrammetry and Laser
Dahshur and Giza plateau reconstructed in 3D, with all their monuments, pyramids, temples, Sphinx... To achieve this ambitious goal, Yves Ubelmann of Iconem will combine two technologies: photogrammetry and drones!
At the basis of photogrammetry, there are computer algorithms. They allow, from a large amount of images taken from different viewpoints, to reconstruct a 3D object. The algorithms used by Iconem were developed by INRIA (the French National Institute for computer science and applied mathematics). The great novelty - already developed by the company Iconem in Pompeii, Syria and Afghanistan, to restore threatened sites - is that the cameras will be shipped aboard unmanned flying vehicles...