Smart Nanotechnology Enlivens Wooden Ships and Artifacts

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Scientists developed an innovative approach using ‘smart’ nanocomposites to conserve 16th-century British warship, the Mary Rose, and its artifacts.

Shipwrecks are preserved in sediments under cold water, however when brought above from the depths, the materials reacts with oxygen and quickly starts to deteriorate. Scientists have developed an innovative method using magnetic nanocomposites to preserve the materials of shipwreck.

The researchers presented their results based on preserving the16th-century British warship, the Mary Rose, and its artifacts at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on August 20, 2018.

The project is a joint collaboration of researchers at University of Glasgow  and University of Warwick. They applied functional magnetic nanomaterial technology to preserve the remains of Mary Rose ship. Initially they sprayed the ship with cold water, to reduce dryness and stop further microbial activity. The team poured various types of polyethylene glycol (PEG), a common polymer with a range of applications, to replace water in the cellular structure of wood and protect its outer layer.

The researchers used synchrotron techniques to examine the sulfur species before exiting PEG sprays. By this process the researchers were able to study the evolution of oxidized sulfur and iron species. The findings will help scientists to design new targeted treatments for the removal of harmful sulfur species from the Mary Rose wood.

After examining the sulfur species, the team next aimed to remove the ions using a nanocomposite-based on core magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles that is composed of agents on their surfaces. The nanoparticles were directly applied using external magnetic fields, forming nanocomposites, which could be easily encompassed in a heat-responsive polymer. This approach allowed absolute removal of free iron and sulfate ions from the wood, and provided the nanocomposites to tune by tweaking their surfaces.

The researchers aims to apply the innovated technology to preserve other materials, such as textiles and leather.

 

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