San Marco Abbey (Florence), wall paintings by Beato Angelico. Conservation carried out withthe Ferroni-Dini method (ammonium carbonate plus barium hydroxide)
I did my masters about eight years ago in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology (for more on this field, see here). Though I do not use the research then done at my present job (which one of us honestly do?), it is always interesting to see something that I did long back and was passionate - nanoscience - coupled with the passions that occupy me now - painting.
A motley combination of nano-science and art seems to have joined together in the cause of something noble. An article in the latest issue of News Scientist talks about the use of nanomagnetic sponges used to clean up ancient frescoes, paintings and sculptures.
Piero Baglioni and colleagues of the University of Florence mixed nanoparticles, made of cobalt and iron oxide, into a polymer gel to create a magnetic sponge with cavities just 50 nanometres in size. They filled these cavities with microemulsions – mixtures including surfactant molecules that work in a similar manner to those in soap – that help to dissolve dirt on contact.
The researchers have previously used microemulsions on their own to clean frescos and paintings that were covered in dirt, grime and paraloid – an acrylic copolymer routinely used by conservators in the 1960s in an attempt to protect paintings. The new nanomagnetic gel is just as effective, but is much easier to remove.
For more details the group has published a paper that is accessible here (pdf alert as usual)...
Colloidal Science and Nanotechnology for Cultural Heritage Conservation - 2006 Baglioni, P., Carretti, E., Chelazzi, D., Dei, L., Giorgi, R., Macherelli, A., Salvadori, B.