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NANORESTART Report Summary

Project ID: 646063

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NANORESTART (NANOmaterials for the REStoration of works of ART)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

NANORESTART focuses on nanotechnologies and contemporary art. Why? Contemporary art is a major challenge for conservators since there is a significant lack of established conservation methodologies that can safely tackle the often extremely fast degradation of materials used by contemporary artists. In particular, post-1940 artists and early artists (1880s-1940s), used and experimented with materials that are so radically different from the ones used in classic art, that they cannot be preserved using the currently available methodologies. The reasons for this are mainly related to the extreme complexity and variability of the new and untested art materials (often intended for different purposes), mixture of materials often incompatible among them, recycled materials, materials close to phase transitions that render a work of art metastable. Typical problems addressed by the project comprise:
• A wide variety of plastic materials, found in art collections, are already in urgent need of attention, while many others show instability, e.g. yellowing and embrittlement. Autocatalytic degradation processes are often sudden and early degradation stages are not easily perceived by conservators, delaying the conservation intervention. This also calls for the development of enhanced tools for detecting early degradation compounds from the artifacts.
• Many painted and plastic modern and contemporary artifacts are currently proving difficult to clean (i.e., remove deposited soiling and other unwanted materials from surfaces). Some of the paints that first became available in the mid 20th century are inherently soft at room temperature, degrade in unpredictable ways, suffer from plasticizer or other low molecular weight material (such as surfactant) migration, have not been studied adequately in terms of their constituents, response to treatment methods and degradation pathways, have been pushed to their physical limits by artists and/or have inherent aesthetic qualities that an artist may wish to be preserved.
• The removal of unwanted contemporary materials from valuable artworks surfaces is also necessary when outdoor murals (Street Art), sculptures, and monuments are vandalized with graffiti. The selective removal of the unwanted re-varnishing is particularly demanding whenever acrylic, vinyl, and alkyd colors were used.
• While some research has been devoted to studies of the paint layer, it is the canvas that provides crucial mechanical support to it. This topic is of utmost interest to painting conservators and is particularly of concern to contemporary canvases because these are still ‘treatable’, while older canvases are usually lined, or so degraded that any stabilization treatment would only have a limited effect. It is fundamental to stress that the degradation of canvas affects greatly the stability of the paint layer. Acidity of canvases made of natural materials is generally of concern as it can lead to loss of mechanical properties and deterioration of canvases based on natural materials in less than 100 years, which then requires costly conservation interventions, inevitably affecting the paint layer as well. The stability of synthetic canvases is even less known than that of canvases of natural origin and in need of research.
• Many paper artworks have been treated in past restorations with PST adhesives that undergo oxidation and change in consistency and color (yellowing), become less viscous and penetrate the bulk of the support. Adhesives continue to oxidize, losing adhesive properties in the process, affecting and dissolving certain media such as ballpoint pen inks and felt-tip pens.
• Long-term protection of surfaces is also needed for the preservation of modern/contemporary metal artifacts. The anti-corrosion protection of metals (e.g. bronze) has been already largely studied in the past; however, the aim of NANORESTART is to develop enhanced protective systems going beyond the commonly used traditional protection based on the use of an inhibitor embedded in an acrylics or wax films against environmental aggressive agents.

The conservation of this diverse cultural heritage requires advanced solutions at the cutting edge of modern chemistry and material science in an entirely new scientific framework that will be developed within this project.
The NANORESTART partnership has unique expertise and the capability of producing materials and techniques (from development to industrial scalability according to the work programme topic NMP-21-2014) for the restoration of new challenging threats to European and global cultural heritage. Nano- and advanced materials have recently contributed to great advancements in the restoration and conservation of ‘classic’ art materials. This is due to the unique physicochemical properties (also due to high surface area/volume ratio) that involve significant changes in chemical reactivity and stability. This approach has offered the real possibility to design a restoration treatment respectful of the original characteristics of the materials.
Currently, Nanoscience contribution to the development of reliable restoration process for contemporary art materials seems to be really decisive for the long-term protection of complex and intrinsically unstable materials such the ones used in contemporary art.

In NANORESTART, enterprises and academic centers of excellence in the field of synthesis and characterization of nano- and advanced materials have joined forces with complementary conservation institutions and freelance restorers. This multidisciplinary approach will cover the development of different materials in response to real conservation needs, the testing of such materials, the assessment of their environmental impact, and their industrial scalability. The expected breakthrough arising from this far-reaching project will impact several fields where detergency and chemical reactivity of nanomaterials are key processes, even beyond the preservation of cultural heritage, e.g. cosmetics, home care, drug delivery, capsules and confinement of active molecules, etc.
Given the high media profile of modern and contemporary art and its high market value, counteracting threats to this cultural patrimony will positively affect tourism-related industry.
Moreover, the association of modern/contemporary art with this project may even contribute to improving the public image and perception of science and in particular of Chemistry.

The overall objectives are:
Objective 1: Development of new tools and materials for conservation:
- The development of new tools for controlled cleaning;
- The strengthening of the materials constituting the work of art and protection of surfaces;
- The development of nanostructured substrates and sensors for more accurate and sensitive chemical analysis.

Objective 2: Evaluation of the environmental impact of the new technologies
- Identify a set of indicators, namely environmental (assessing the impact), economic (describing the benefits from an industrial perspective), as well as technical (i.e. linking technologies compatibility with their sustainability);
- Develop a Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA)-based methodology in order to integrate them into a technology-specific sustainability judgment/score;
- Incorporate the proposed Sustainability Assessment methodology in ad hoc guidelines to support manufacturers towards the certification of their nano-enabled technologies.

Objective 3: Exploitation of the new technologies
- The new solutions will be affordable in terms of cost and/or complexity of operation to the end-users, i.e. the conservation practitioners, as requested by the work programme topic. In this respect, the project will accelerate the industrial exploitation of newly developed technologies.
- The process will be facilitated by the understanding of barriers to innovation that still exist in this field, by supporting the involvement of SMEs in R&D, subsidizing the development of pre-competitive products, and by exchanging knowledge with end-users extensively.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The foreseen tasks and objectives were fulfilled thanks to an active and fruitful collaboration between all the partners.
Regarding the Development of new tools and materials for conservation (Objective 1), WP2 has already produced a set of cleaning fluids featuring biodegradable and cleavable surfactants. Another fundamental result is that a set of gel formulations was produced, including both hydrogels and organogels. Assessment activities already validated these tools: relevant results have been achieved regarding the cleaning of important masterpieces (e.g. the cleaning of Pollock’s “Two”, carried out by PEGGY GUGGENHEIM in cooperation with CSGI). Some of the gels produced at CSGI in the framework of the project and used for these interventions, are ready for introduction on the market.
WP3 has produced systems for the strengthening of cellulose substrates, which are under assessment. The composite systems produced are promising in that they already produced consolidation of mock-ups in preliminary tests. Systems for the controlled delivery of plasticizers are being formulated. WP4 has already produced formulations for the active and passing coatings of metal substrates. Work in progress is now focusing on improving these systems and developing coatings for plastic substrates. WP5 has focused on systems for enhanced detection of dyes (mostly SERS substrates) and VOCs. Good progress has been made as detailed in this report.
For what concerns the Evaluation of the environmental impact of the new technologies (Objective 2), WP6 has provided a preliminary screening of the components and starting materials of the new systems. This work is fundamental to highlight the systems in need of deeper investigation. So far, all partners are focusing on low-impact materials, to improve on traditional methods.
The exploitation of the new technologies (Objective 3) has been so far addressed in WP7, where preparatory work has been carried out in order to favor the future exploitation of results, in particular regarding the best practices and standards in cultural heritage. This project aims to find solutions affordable in terms of cost and/or complexity of operation by those who will use the materials and techniques developed. Finally, for what concerns the project dissemination (Objective 4), activities have already been carried out (workshops, seminars, publications, project site, build up of network of contacts, stakeholders and potential end users), and it is foreseen that a large amount of dissemination will have been carried out by the end of the project.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The polymeric water-based, and solvent-based coatings, are easy to apply, removable, and should have good aging properties. They can also be combined with coating no. 3), and with active or passive coatings from other institutions if the compatibility problems The main progress beyond the state of the art of conservation materials involves the following project’s achievements:

• The cleaning fluids developed by the project (nanostructured cleaning fluids) exhibit a decreased impact on the artifact, the environment and the operator as compared to traditional solvent blends. The systems developed by the project (e.g. oil-in-water microemulsions) have a decreased solvent content (hence a reduced eco-toxicological impact) and contain green solvents and degradable surfactants.
• The gels developed by the project for the confinement and controlled delivery of cleaning fluids are significant upgrades as compared to traditional thickeners in that the latter tend to leave residues that are difficult to remove from the surface on the artifacts, and do not allow a controlled release of the cleaning fluids. The gels developed in Nanorestart exhibit optimal mechanical (e.g. viscoelastic) properties and retentiveness.
• The new consolidants developed for the strengthening of canvas are fully compatible with the cellulosic substrates, as opposed to traditional adhesives that can release compounds that are harmful to cellulose (e.g. acetic acid).
• The new smart protective coatings developed by the project are expected to be more effective and compatible to bronze and plastic than traditional coatings (e.g. wax for metals).
• The diagnostic tools developed by the project (SERS, sensors for VOCs detection) exhibit enhanced detection limits or more specificity/sensitivity than traditional detection techniques.

The project has an expected wide potential impact, in terms of both socio-economic and wider societal implications:
The Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) recognized cultural diversity as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, alongside the economic, social and environment pillars. According to the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), ‘development’ is “understood not only in terms of economic growth, but also as a mean to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence”. In this context Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diversity are a basic motor for economic development. To maximize the benefits of cultural diversity, it is necessary to develop effective strategies that ensure the long-term conservation of irreplaceable cultural heritage resources. Thousands of museums and historical organizations across the world maintain important collections of artifacts representing a gigantic cultural diversity. The challenge of preserving and making accessible such heritage is enormous and the need for knowledgeable staff is significant and on-going. To fulfill both these missions it is necessary to draw up precise and long-term preventive and remedial conservation and restoration policies with the aims of preventing, stopping, slowing down the degradation process of the collections. In the study prepared for the EC (Directorate-General for Education and Culture) by KEA-European Affairs ( to capture the direct and indirect socioeconomic impact of the cultural sector in Europe, it is evidenced how cultural heritage as a strong potential for generating qualified jobs. The jobs related to restoration and conservation are often highly skilled and well paid. Yet, Europe is experiencing a shortage in these specialized skills, as highlighted in the AEERPA White Paper on The economic advantages of architectural heritage in Europe. This shortage may impede the full exploitation of the sector’s job potential and can be revitalized by the introduction of new restoration techniques.
The huge number of items potentially needing restoration, requires solutions affordable in terms of costs and time. Therefore, restoration techniques based on materials that can be easily applied, in a relatively short time, would decrease the cost of the whole intervention, even when a little higher cost for more advanced materials might be necessary. On the other side, long-term efficacy of the treatment dramatically decreases the costs of ordinary maintenance and increases the fruitfulness of collections and museums, which is reflected as a higher socio-economic profit: tourism indirectly generates more than 10% of the European Union's GDP and provides about 12% of the labor force (EUbusiness 2013). The market for conservation of this heritage is estimated at ca. €5 billion per year, and could increase by a significant factor in next years due to the wider use of nanomaterials. Therefore, the project results are expected to have deep impact in terms of employment increase.
The project aims at developing affordable products for end-users with prices that are either comparable or slightly higher than traditional materials. It the latter case, it must be noted that higher prices account for higher performance, for instance a cleaning system developed by the project is expected to be effective whereas traditional materials (i.e. solvent blends) might fail. Therefore the quality/price ratio of the project products is expected to be higher than that of the traditional materials.
The project will also transfer novel technologies and methods to other sectors. The project partnership includes important companies - leaders in the development and production of chemicals and active in the exploitation of new materials and technologies. Wider impacts can be thought considering the enabling, cross cutting character of the developed technologies (cross-cutting KETs). Business cases will be developed for relevant industry sectors, starting from cultural heritage and also beyond, such as construction and building, paints, household products and furniture, clothing and textiles, manufacturing of metals and alloys components and intermediates (e.g. anticorrosion treatments).

Related information

Record Number: 191382 / Last updated on: 2016-11-16
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