The science of art

Published: Saturday 15 September 2001

A group of chemists at the University of Florence have devised a technique to prevent decay of old frescoes using nanoparticles of slaked lime. Frescoes are made by applying pigments onto the damp plaster on a wall. As the plaster dries, the pigments held fast into the base. But, dampness and other environmental factors have damaged many of these frescoes. Researchers have used slaked lime suspension in alcohol to reaffirm the flaking paint. As the alcohol evaporates, the crystals of calcium hydroxide absorb water and carbon dioxide. The chemical then merges with the calcium carbonate in the paint layer and bind it together to keep the pigment intact (Science , June 8).

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