Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New Look for Antiques

Paintings and gilt surfaces can be effectively and gently restored with water-based microemulsions

In the past, restoration of paintings and other old artwork often involved application of acrylic resins to consolidate and protect them. One of the most important tasks for modern restorers is thus to remove these layers, because it turns out that acrylic resins not only drastically change the optics of the treated artwork, but in many cases they accelerate their degradation.

Italian researchers working with Piero Baglioni at the University of Florence have now developed a technique to effectively remove such old polymer layers from sensitive historic artworks. As the researchers report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the new cleaning system involves only a tiny proportion of volatile organic compounds. “We have demonstrated the first successful application of a water-based system for the removal of an organic layer from artwork,” says Baglioni. “In addition, our method is simpler and less invasive than traditional processes.”

The scientists use an oil-in-water microemulsion with the organic solvent para-xylene as the oil component. An emulsion is a fine dispersion of droplets of one liquid in another liquid with which the first is not miscible. One example from our daily lives is milk. A microemulsion is an emulsion that forms spontaneously and is stable. It contains substances that act as emulsifiers. Because the individual drops are only nanometer-sized, the mircoemulsion is not milky and opaque, but clear and transparent.

The Italian researchers embedded their micoremulsion in a matrix of a modified type of cellulose—a material used as a thickener for emulsion paints. The matrix makes the cleaning agent viscous, so that it cannot enter very far into the pores of a painting. Its activity is limited to the outer layer, whilst deeper layers of paint do not come into contact with the xylene. The environment is protected as well, because of the very low concentration of volatile solvent, the evaporation of which is further limited by the matrix. The optical transparency of the system also allows the restorer to continuously monitor the cleaning process.

“We successfully cleaned a mural from the 15th century,” reports Baglioni. This painting is located in the Santa Maria della Scala Sacristy in Siena. “It was covered with a 35 year old layer of acrylic from a previous restoration. Our new system allowed us to completely remove the undesirable shine. We were also able to clean another art work: a gilt frame from an 18th century painting.”

Author: Piero Baglioni, Università degli Studi di Firenze (Italy),

Title: Nanoscience for Art Conservation: Oil-in-Water Microemulsions Embedded in a Polymeric Network for the Cleaning of Works of Art

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, doi: 10.1002/anie.200904244

Piero Baglioni | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

3-D-printed structures shrink when heated

26.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

First results of NSTX-U research operations

26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>