Chemical Sciences and Materials Technology for f Cultural Heritage

In recent years, Europe has shown a strong sense of belonging to its cultural heritage, which is shown to be important for both society and the economy, and therefore calls for better tools for protection, enhancement and use. Such themes resonate in the different H2020 calls not only in the Societal Challenges pillar but also in Industrial leadership and Excellent Science. In line with the priorities set out by the European Commission to foster smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the National Research Plan (PNR 2015-2020) lists the 12 areas of specialization of applied research in the Cultural Heritage sector which is defined as highly potential for our country of distinctive competences and competitive positioning internationally. The technological area of cultural heritage is intrinsically interdisciplinary and includes competences ranging from human sciences to natural sciences; Among the latter, chemistry has played a key role in recent decades, driven by the need for a thorough understanding of original materials and their degradation processes and the need for innovative solutions for restoration and conservation. At the same time, in dealing with materials of cultural heritage for cultural heritage, researchers in the chemical sciences have encountered complex and fascinating challenges with great interest in scientific and cognitive viewpoints as well as for impact on society.


The activity of Chemistry for Cultural Heritage area grouped as three objectives which highlight the DSCTM excellences in the sector. A core of excellence is represented by the activities related to the development and application of advanced analytical techniques for diagnostics and monitoring in which DSCTM institutes express state-of-the-art skills in spectroscopy; hyperspectral imaging, nuclear magnetic resonance, non conventional Raman spectroscopy (FT, SERS, time resolved) electronic and photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS, AES, SAM) laser induced plasma, X-ray (XRF, XRD, XAS) and neutron spectroscopy. These analytical skills, strengthened by know-how in the interpretation of the results of the study of materials of cultural heritage interest (with particular reference to polychrome, metal, ceramics and stone materials) and excellence laboratories already established in logistics for the study of objects of Art (mobile and / or non-invasive instruments) and with ten years of experience at pan-European level, place DSCTM in a leadership position in the process of creating a research infrastructure dedicated to E-RIHS (European Research Infrastructure in Heritage Science). The other point of excellence of the Department in the area of Cultural Heritage is that of experimental and computational modelling for the study of the mechanism and dynamics of degradation phenomena in materials of historical-artistic and archaeological interest, with particular reference to pictorial materials , metals and stone. Research in this area allows to understand and rationalize intrinsic factors (eg interaction of metallic pigments with carboxylic acids liberated from triglycerides of lipid binders in oil painting) or environmental (museum illumination, humidity, atmospheric pollutants) which on a molecular scale control the reactive processes underlying degradable phenomena such as chromatic variations, efflorescence and loss of cohesion that affect the fruition of the work and its persistence over time. These skills are of great conservative interest as they enable the development of targeted strategies for monitoring, preventive conservation, and industry as they foster applied research for the creation of display systems and innovative uses. Research in DSCTM for the development of advanced conservation and restoration materials (cleaning, protection, consolidation systems) is also of national and European importance. For example, in line with the modern approach to drug delivery in pharmacology, it is possible, by using nano-sciences and nano-technologies, to achieve molecular and nano-structured materials with selective action and to target them specifically where the process of chemical-physical-structural alteration is active or where a controlled and selective removal of unwanted materials is required.

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