Applied Physics A

, Volume 83, Issue 4, pp 567–571 | Cite as

Conservation of acid waterlogged shipwrecks: nanotechnologies for de-acidification

  • R. Giorgi
  • D. Chelazzi
  • P. Baglioni


Preservation of waterlogged wooden artifacts, and in particular ancient wrecks, is a challenge in cultural heritage conservation. Samples, from the Swedish warship Vasa, are under investigation in order to develop innovative methods for wood de-acidification and preservation. The Vasa represents a unique case in the study of ancient wrecks. In the past four years the problem of the acidity of wood emerged as a strong threat to its conservation. The production of sulphuric acid inside the ship wood might be the cause of both chemical damage through the acid hydrolysis of cellulose, and of physical damage of the wood’s pore structure, due to the crystallization of sulphate minerals in the wood pores. In this paper we show that wood acidity can be neutralized by the application of nanoparticles of alkaline-earth carbonates and/or hydroxides. The treatment provides an alkaline reservoir inside the wood. Nanoparticles absorbed in the wood from an alcoholic dispersion adhere to the wood wall and release hydroxyl ions leading to the wood neutralization. Oak and pine samples from the Vasa wreck were characterized and treated with alkaline magnesium or calcium nanoparticle dispersions in non-aqueous solvents. De-acidification was monitored by pH changes and thermal analysis, and all the treated samples were submitted to thermal artificial ageing in order to demonstrate the efficacy of the method. The results obtained opened a new perspective in wood conservation.


Wood Sample Calcium Hydroxide Pyrolysis Temperature Magnesium Hydroxide Transmission Electron Microscope Picture 
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© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and CSGIUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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