Department of Analytical Chemistry acquires device to simulate the ageing of paintings

Photos: Šárka Chovancová
Monday 3 August 2020, 10:46 – Text: Šárka Chovancová

The SOLARBOX device, with which the laboratory of the Department of Analytical Chemistry has now been equipped, enables experts from the Faculty of Science to simulate the ageing of paintings and various materials. Thanks to the device, scientists are able to more accurately characterise the current and original composition of colour layers on paintings hundreds of years old.

“The new device allows us to perform artificial ageing of samples. It emits light of a defined power and spectral properties simulating solar radiation on an object that is inserted into it. The temperature and humidity are also set in the device chamber. During ageing, these parameters are maintained or changed by the device according to the selected programme,” said Assoc Prof in Analytical Chemistry Petr Bednář, describing the principle of the device.

The department acquired the device mainly for the Arteca project, which is focused on the study of pigments and binding agents in old paintings. A painting hundreds of years old, despite being carefully stored in a gallery or depository, is still ageing, and the substances contained in the pigments which were used by the artist in its creation are gradually being transformed. “We are trying to find out what processes have taken place over the centuries as the paintings age. With the help of this device, we will be able to trace the substances contained in the original paintings,” said Bednář.

In addition to the study of pigments and binding agents used in the artworks, the SOLARBOX can also be used to study the long-term effects of intense radiation, temperature, and humidity on plant materials. It also allows the description of the ageing of technologically important organic materials, plastics, inorganic materials, and fabrics.

“For example, in the automotive industry this technology can be used to monitor changes in body paint exposed to long-term sunlight. With these materials, it is therefore possible to evaluate whether they are stable and suitable for long-term use or whether after a short time there are undesirable changes in their properties,” added Bednář.