New technique to preserve silver’s brightness


New technique to preserve silver’s brightness

Silver artifacts in private or museums collections need not lose their sheen, thanks to a new technology that would help preserve their brightness.


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Published: Mon 29 Oct 2012, 9:13 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:59 PM

A team of researchers led by Ray Phaneuf, professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Maryland, has partnered with The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to investigate less labour-intensive ways to protect silver artifacts from tarnishing.

The new techniques could help ensure that historically important artifacts are preserved for future generations to learn from and enjoy, according to a Maryland statement.

‘We did a quick back-of-the envelope calculation and found that for a big museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, treating their entire silver collection with nitrocellulose films would likely be a never-ending task,’ said Phaneuf.

Phaneuf and colleagues are trying out atomic layer deposition (ALD), which would overcome some of the shortcomings of current preservation methods.

Currently museum conservators can apply a thin layer of nitrocellulose lacquer to protect the silver. The coating is often hand-painted by a trained specialist and must be removed and re-applied an average of every 30 years.

Phaneuf notes that it is difficult to apply a layer of even thickness over an entire piece, and the process of applying, removing, and re-applying the film is time-consuming.

The researchers presented their work at the AVS 59th International Symposium and Exhibition in Tampa, US.

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