Mild heating is commonly used for conservation of cultural heritage. A novel portable device exploiting carbon nanotubes promises to revolutionise heat treatment and simultaneously make it more widely applicable.
Heating is the key to successful structural treatments of paintings, paper or textiles including consolidation or amelioration of planar deformation. However, currently available technology lacks control, uniformity and accuracy all of which can have negative and irreversible consequences. Furthermore, lack of mobility puts invaluable pieces of cultural heritage at risk, making it difficult to treat remote objects or to respond quickly to emergencies.
The EU-funded project ‘Intelligent mobile multipurpose accurate thermoelectrical (IMAT) device for art conservation’ (IMAT) is solving all these critically important issues. Partners are developing precision heating technology based on carbon nanotubes integrated in a conductive coating, the key area of technical development.
The building blocks of the IMAT system are a conductive film heater and a control unit. The control unit includes an electrical power supply, a touch screen console and a thermocouple (electrodes and sensors) exploiting wireless Bluetooth technology. The heaters are designed to be light weight, low power and ultra-thin with additional functionalities in each prototype.
Flexibility, low power consumption and mobility favour large-area conductive film heating that can be rolled up and easily transported to the area of need. These characteristics also aid in utilisation on three-dimensional objects of complex shape. The result is a step change with respect to the conventional heating table.
By the end of the first reporting period, three prototypes had been delivered. The IMAT standard (IMAT-S) is opaque and non-breathable. The breathable version (IMAT-B) is also opaque but incorporates a membrane permeable to air and water vapour. Finally, the transparent version (IMAT-T) is not permeable although a perforated version is being considered. Transparency will enable the user to visually monitor the object during treatment.
The IMAT systems would also be quite useful in cleaning painted surfaces with enzymes as they require controlled and stable temperatures to operate. Technology could also be used to rid objects of insects and bacteria. IMAT heaters are expected to be welcomed by the cultural heritage community while technology will likely spawn applications in other areas.
Provided by Cordis