Smart – Nano Surfaces: Intelligent Protectives for Cultural Heritage

In the world of cultural heritage we often speak of protective treatments, or water-repellent treatments that have the purpose of slowing down the interaction artifact-environment. The most known and used protective treatments are based on acrylic resins and polysiloxanic resins properly characterized by several parameters essential for the sector such as the absence of chromatic alteration induced on the surface. The transparency of protective coatings is a requirement to be respected in the world of art and cultural heritage. In fact, the materials that make up works of art must be preserved in the best possible way with products that do not change their appearance by dulling the surface or, on the contrary, by causing a “glossy” effect. So, how to understand if the protective coating is still present or not on the treated surface in a simple way, without complex analytical techniques? Thus, the need arose to formulate a new product capable of protecting the surface of the treated material and able to provide, even after some time, information on its condition. Consequently, the classic question “Is the protective agent still present on the surface?” can now have a clear answer, thanks to the efficiency of nano-technology. Why do we talk about nano-technology as innovative experimentation, if in the field of cultural heritage nano-materials already have a relevant place? Generally, nano-particles are used because, having a good surface/volume ratio, they are able to enhance the properties of the same material with non-nano dimensions. The new product, however, is innovative because it exploits the presence of nano-particles to obtain information on the presence or absence of the product on the surface of the material. The nano-particles have, therefore, a role of marker within the protective material itself. The study is carried out in collaboration with the CNR – Institute of Composite Polymers and BioMaterials and the Institute of Crystallography.