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How can European heritage be preserved with castor oil?

Innovations in chemistry and materials science are helping to safeguard European artworks for future generations.

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You might think that once a museum acquires an important cultural heritage artefact, it’s in safe hands. But even under surveillance of experts, these items are at risk from unstable climate conditions, light and pollution – including corrosive gases generated by the artworks themselves. The EU-funded APACHE project focused on several aspects of conservation, one of which was active packaging and display case solutions, with the overall goal of creating a stable climate using materials that have an active influence on and interact with the packed objects. The result was a new environmentally friendly pollutant absorber based on castor oil and inorganic nanoparticles. The material absorbs and immobilises damaging airborne chemicals, helping to extend the lifespan of artworks. The project has now been featured in the new CORDIS series of explanatory videos titled Make the Connection. Researchers also focussed on intelligent packaging and display cases tools. This included tools that give an additional function to the packaging, such as sensors that monitor the condition of the packed object or its surrounding atmosphere. Project coordinator Piero Baglioni concludes: “The preventive conservation solutions developed within APACHE make possible the safe exhibition, transport and fruition of a wide number of artefacts, allowing their transfer to future generations and promoting the tourism industry.” Find out more about APACHE. ‘Make the connection with EU-science’ is a series of explanatory videos focusing on the scientific content and exploitation aspects of EU research projects.


APACHE, preventive conservation, artefact, remedial conservation, display case, pollutant absorber, VOC, active packaging, intelligent packaging, volatile organic compounds