Cutting-edge tech meets old world art: TU brings chemistry/art expert to Gilcrease

Friday, March 28, 2008

Florence professor uses nanotechnology to preserve masterpieces

At first glance, Tulsa’s Gilcrease museum, nanotechnology research at The University of Tulsa and frescoes by 15th century Tuscan masters don’t have much in common. But thanks to some creative thinking by TU chemistry students, these topics have come together in an April 9 public lecture by University of Florence chemistry professor Piero Baglioni.The TU student chapters of the American Chemical Society and Phi Lambda Upsilon, a chemistry honor society, will host Baglioni, whose work has brought new life to national art treasures all over the world. His lecture, "Nanotechnology for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage," is free and open to the public and will take place at 6 p.m., April 9, in the Tom Gilcrease, Jr. Auditorium at the Gilcrease Museum located at 1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Road. "With TU’s emerging


with Gilcrease, our students really wanted to find a speaker who could connect our department and the museum," said Dale Teeters, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and director of the Institute of Nanotechnology at TU. "Dr. Baglioni’s work exemplifies how advances in nanotechnology can serve a broad range of applications, even in the art world." Nanotechnology is the study of matter on the molecular or nano level. By developing products on the nanoscale, Baglioni’s team at the Center for Colloid and Surface Science (CSGI) in Florence has discovered a way to remove only the hazardous substances that are destroying an art piece while leaving the rest intact. The CSGI team invented a special gel that acts like a sponge, soaking up a cleaning solution and transferring it to the surface of an artwork to remove harmful chemicals. The gel is especially adept at this type of cleaning because it stays on the surface, rather than soaking into a material. The gel and cleaning solution is then reabsorbed with a magnet, leaving no damaging residues. This technological breakthrough has led to the amazing restoration of some priceless artifacts, including Italian frescoes, Swedish shipwrecks, Mayan sculptures and even organ pipes (see


of CSGI’s work in a Nanowerk article).Nanotechnology research at TU has drawn national attention in 2007–2008: it was featured in an episode of Modern Marvels on the History Channel, received $650,000 in


from the Department of Defense and won an award for excellence in study abroad education for the innovative


program.For more information about the April 9 lecture, contact the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at (918) 631-2515.