top of page

Material science for Cultural Heritage


Nanotechnology for Cultural Heritage protection


Part of the group is actually involved in a recently funded European Commission – Horizon 2020 project, focused on “NANOmaterials for the REStoration of works of ART” (NANORESTART).

Contemporary art is a major challenge for conservators since there is a significant lack of established conservation methodologies that can safely tackle the often extremely fast degradation of materials used by contemporary artists. It may be said that many current modern and contemporary works of art will probably not be accessible to visitors/users in a hundred years due to rapid degradation, as they degrade beyond restoration.

Post-1940 artists and early artists (1880s-1940s), used and experimented with materials that are so radically different from the ones used in classic art, that they cannot be preserved using the currently available methodologies.

The conservation of this diverse cultural heritage requires advanced solutions at the cutting edge of modern chemistry and material science in an entirely new scientific framework that is now being be developed within NANORESTART project.
The NANORESTART project focus on the synthesis of novel poly-functional nanomaterials and on the development of highly innovative restoration techniques to address the conservation of a wide variety of materials mainly used by modern and contemporary artists. In NANORESTART, enterprises and academic centers of excellence in the field of synthesis and characterization of nano- and advanced materials have joined forces with complementary conservation institutions and freelance restorers. This multidisciplinary approach covers the development of different materials in response to real conservation needs, the testing of such materials, the assessment of their environmental impact, and their industrial scalability.


In particular, our contribution within the Project concerns the following aspects:

  • Active protection of plastics and other organic substrates is pursued using radical scavengers based on metal clusters supported by metal nanoparticles, with the purpose to protect these surfaces from radical oxidation.

  • Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering spectroscopy (SERS)-active substrates with modulable surface polarity for the detection of art materials and degradation products, prepared by soft-lithography.


Durability of plastic-made artworks


Our group is also involved in the study of the durability of Contemporary Artworks, in particular in collaboration with the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (CGAC) of Santiago de Compostela.

This more traditional application of material science for the safeguard of cultural heritage is related with the fact that objects partially or completely made of plastics may be found in almost all international collections devoted to science and technology, modern history, design and fine arts, and their proportion is likely to increase with time, as museums continue to collect materials which reflect modern life and contemporary cultural heritage. On the other hand, polymers, owing to their intrinsic nature, are much more prone to chemical reactions than most traditional materials and concerns about the longevity of plastics are well established. Plastic objects may often have to face serious problems of either physical or chemical ageing even in much protected indoor environments, at relatively low temperature, such as those typically found in museums during display and storage.

Although plastics either as objects in their own right or as components of composite materials are present in different types of collections, especially the durability of important pieces of modern and contemporary art is of particular interest.

In the framework of a comprehensive project aimed to develop a multi-analytical approach for evaluating the degradability of polymeric materials in contemporary works of art, we are focusing our efforts on the evaluation of the actual state of conservation and the prediction of the long term stability of contemporary artworks.



Selected publications

Detection of degradation markers from polymer surfaces by a novel SERS-based strategy

M. Gómez, D. Reggio, M. Lazzari

Talanta  2019, 191, 156-161 [open access]


Nanotechnologies for contemporary art conservation: Some applications on plastics

M. Gómez, D. Reggio, M. Lazzari, I. Rodríguez-Arias, M.A. López-Quintela

in Conserving Cultural Heritage – Mosquera & Almoraima Gil Eds., Taylor and Francis group 2018,  pp. 181-183 [read chapter]


Reliable and cheap SERS active substrates

M. Gómez, M. Lazzari

Materials Today, 2014, 17(7), 358–359 [open access] [cover]


Linseed oil as a model system for surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy detection of degradation products in artworks

M. Gómez, D. Reggio, M. Lazzari

J. Raman Spectr.  2019, 50, 242–249 [open access] [cover]


Durability of an industrial epoxy vinyl ester resin used for the fabrication of a contemporary art sculpture

Y. Rodriguez-Mella, T. López-Morán, M. A. López-Quintela, M. Lazzari

Polym. Degrad. Stab., 2014, 107, 277-284 [read paper]


Plastic matters: an analytical procedure to evaluate the degradability of contemporary works of art

M. Lazzari, A. Ledo-Suárez , T. López, D. Scalarone, M. A. López-Quintela

Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 2011, 399, 2939–2948 [read paper]

bottom of page