Nanotechnology has recently found practical applications in the conservation and restoration of the world’s cultural heritage. Nanoparticles of calcium and magnesium hydroxide and carbonate have been used to restore and protect wall paints, such as Maya paintings in Mexico or 15th century Italian masterpieces. Nanoparticle applications were also used to restore old paper documents, where acidic inks have caused the cellulose fibers to break up, and to treat acidic wood from a 400-year-old shipwreck.
Aside from the enormously rich cultural resources in the city of Florence, it is one of the most suitable places for conservation studies. For example, after the 1966 Florence flood, the Center for Colloid and Surface Science (CSGI) research group at the University of Florence, founded by Prof. Enzo Ferroni and currently directed by Piero Baglioni, was the first academic institution that applied a rigorous scientific approach to the investigation of cultural heritage degradation.
CSGI has developed the most advanced nanotechnology-based methods for the restoration of wall paintings. These include methods for cleaning and removal of resins from wall and oil paintings, for frescoes consolidation, and for paper de-acidification. Currently these methods are used in many parts of the world.
Applications of nanotechnology-based processes to wall paintings consolidation and paper de-acidification have recently provided clear evidences of the huge potential of nanotechnology for cultural heritage conservation. Nanodispersions of solids, micelle solutions, gels and microemulsions offer new reliable ways to restore and preserve works of art by merging together the main features and properties of soft-matter and hard-matter systems, allowing the synthesis of systems specifically tailored for the works of art to fight the deterioration processes which threaten many priceless masterpieces.
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