Nanomaterials Restore Aged Canvases

July
2018

Many of the greatest art masterpieces are painted on canvas, and while the artist’s technique and vision may be timeless, the materials are not. A canvas is composed of an intricate network of micron-sized interwoven cellulose-based fibers in a complex assembly. Over time, chemical degradation of the cellulose chains and humidity and temperature changes can cause the canvas to deteriorate. This loss of integrity generates stress on the paint layers and can cause irreversible damage to some of the most priceless collections.

Current art restoration techniques for canvas strengthening typically add a new canvas lining behind the worn canvas to provide mechanical support to the artwork. This requires using harsh adhesives, or even thermoplastics, to seal the new layer of canvas behind the old. This method does not address the fiber degradation and increases the stiffness of the canvas, which can further damage the piece. The current method is both invasive and irreversible, and it adds a significant amount of weight to the already stressed painting.

Researchers at Chalmers Univ. of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden, have developed a new method to provide structural support to canvas using nanomaterials. The method, called consolidation, treats the degraded canvas fibers with a combination of polyelectrolyte-treated silica nanoparticles (SNPs) and cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs). Individually, both...

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