Nanotechnology has certainly garnered its share of media attention over the last year or so in applications ranging from drug delivery and high-density magnetic recording materials to new LED lighting systems. But yesterday I stumbled across an unexpected application that showed remarkable results; the restoration of antiquities through the removal of resins and salts from paintings, consolidation (reattaching and solidifying) paint on canvas and frescoes, and de-acidification of paper.
The key limitations of the traditional techniques centered around the fact that the cracks and pores in the antique surfaces were too tiny for the materials with macro-sized particles to effectively penetrate. Enter the new techniques for fabricating nano-scale particles of the same treatments.
This is a scanning electron micrograph of a Calcium-hydroxide nanoparticle synthesized through an homogeneous phase reaction at 90 degrees celcius.
These nanoparticles can now enter easily into the tiny pores in the paintings and frescoes and work their chemical and fixative magic without leaving any annoying discoloring films. The effects are remarkable.
Crucifixion by Beato Angelico (15th century, Florence). On the left, pre-restoration images of the wall painting. On the right, apost-restoration image. Desulfatation and consolidation was performed with the Ferroni–Dini method (ammonium carbonate plus barium hydroxide). (Courtesy of Daniela Dini).
Santa Maria Novella Basilica in
, wall paintings by Andrea da Firenze: conservation carried out by means of lime/alcohol dispersions. Florence
The fresco by Pozzoserrato (XVI century) in the Conegliano’s Cathedral after the cleaning with the micellar solution developed ad hoc for this workshop.