Innovative nanotechnologies for cleaning and deacidification of books and manuscripts

Rodorico GIORGI
(University of Florence, Department of Chemistry& CSGI, Via della Lastruccia 3, Sesto Fiorentino, 50019 Florence, Italy.)
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Alkaline earth metal hydroxide nanoparticles dispersions in alcohol have demonstrated to be efficient for the deacidification of books, turning into mild alkaline species upon carbonation and providing a stable neutral environment. New formulations, tailored for specific conservation issues, such as the conservation of modern inks manuscripts, have been recently developed, starting from nanoparticles obtained via a solvothermal reaction. Using this synthetic procedure, stable and concentrated calcium hydroxide nanoparticles dispersions in hydrocarbon solvent can be obtained. This formulation is particularly performing when water-soluble and alcohol soluble inks are present on paper, and classic deacidification methods cannot be used. These new formulations of nanoparticles dispersions expand the palette of available tools for the conservation of cellulose-based works of art; this means not only paper, but also canvas paintings and textiles.

The deacidification treatment usually follows the cleaning of manuscripts. This operation very often cannot be executed with the use of water or other polar solvents, because of the mechanical stresses that paper suffers when wetted. Moreover, the removal of oil spot or adhesives, which were used in past restorations and are degrading with time, is very difficult, unless oil-in-water microemulsions are used. In order to make ‘compatible’ these fluids with a water-sensitive substrate, such as paper, new chemical gels have been synthesized and used as a microemulsions container. The very high retention capability and the specific mechanical properties of these gels allow the safe cleaning of water sensitive substrates using water-based detergent systems. In fact, the cleaning action is limited to the contact surface, and complete soil removal is achieved while avoiding water spreading and absorption within the substrate. The use of these gels also avoids leaving residues over the treated surfaces because the gel network is formed by covalent bonds that provide high mechanical strength.

The successful applications of these novel nanotechnologies for the conservation of paper documents/artworks will be illustrated.



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