“Live” Prussian blue fading by time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy
Prussian blue (PB) is an artists’ pigment that has been frequently used in many artworks but poses several problems of conservation because of its fading under light and anoxia treatment. PB fading is due to the reduction of iron(III) into iron(II) and depends a lot on the object investigated. Due to the complexity of the structure, the precise physico-chemical mechanisms behind the redox process remain obscure. In this paper, we present a procedure to investigate light- and anoxia-induced fading of PB-paper samples by means of time resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy performed at the Fe K-edge. A system composed of a visible light source and a flux-controlled environmental cell allowed light, gas and humidity to be modified in situ. The synchrotron X-ray beam was evidenced to induce a reduction of PB and to play a major role in the kinetics. The analysis of the PB fading kinetics of a sample submitted to various gas and light environments showed that both synchrotron beam and anoxia were influencing PB reduction in a correlated way. In comparison, light was found to play a minor role. Finally, we have demonstrated that the type of paper substrate could influence significantly the kinetics of reduction. Several hypotheses to explain the correlation between PB reduction mechanism and substrate are presented.
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