Conservation chemistry

In the field of conservation chemistry, our research focuses on issues related to the degradation of materials, the development of new methods to preserve heritage objects, as well as the development of modern physical and chemical analysis techniques materials for use in the heritage sector. The research team specializes in the study of degradation of natural polymers (cellulose, proteins) and dyes. Developed research methods are particularly suited to the study of reaction mechanisms and non-invasive or micro-destructive analysis techniques based on infrared spectroscopy and photoacoustic signal detection, UV-Vis spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence, gas chromatography, DESI-MS and size exclusion chromatography.

A particularly promising area of work is our development and optimization of microfading tester (MFT) instrumentation. MFT can be used to measure photodegradation, fading of colorants etc., in real time with an intense light source focused onto a sub-millimetre spot (photo above). MFT is non-destructive and it can be used on heritage objects to directly assess their light fastness.

We are also engaged in a research project related to the assessment of heating systems on historic buildings. Our roll in the project is to analyse dust composition and distribution in the structures.

In 2010, we began to address the problem of microbiological degradation. We are conducting a research project with an aim to develop an active (biostatic/biocidal) filler for paper-based on natural zeolites with silver nanoparticles. This material can be used in food packaging and preservation industry, as interleaving material or for making archival envelopes or boxes. We have also initiated research on a new technique for disinfection of paper utilizing non-equilibrium, non-thermal low temperature plasma (photo on the right – a prototype of a plasma pen system).

The research team works with a number of cultural institutions in Poland and abroad, among them the Jagiellonian Library, the National Museum in Krakow (Laboratory for Non-Destructive Analysis and Historic Properties Research), Wawel Royal Castle, the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, and the Central Laboratory for Conservation of Archive Materials. We also conduct in collaboration with the Institute of Catalysis Sciences (Dr. L. Bratasz and Dr. M. Strojecki), units of the Jagiellonian University – Department of Physics (Dr. hab. K. Dzierżęga) and the Institute of Environmental Sciences (Prof. K. Turnau).

Our team’s research in the area of conservation chemistry was initiated by our previous leader, Prof. Andrzej Baranski through the work commenced and carried out by the team during the multi-year project ‘Acid Paper’. An outcome of this project was Poland’s first centre for mass deacidification of paper, the Jagiellonian Library’s Paper Clinic. The program also enabled the purchase of equipment in connection with the implementation of the Paper Degradation Laboratory at the Department of Chemistry.