Microgel technology for preservation of cultural heritage

Founding Body: European Research Council
Total grant: € 150K
Principal Investigator: Emanuela Zaccarelli
Other participants: Simona Sennato,  Claudia Mazzuca (Univ. Tor Vergata)
Project duration: 2022-2024
Website: https://erc.europa.eu/funding/proof-concept


This PoC project is dedicated to the development of a new soft matter technology for paper preservation. Building on the recent ERC grant of the PI, MIMIC, that was mainly a theoretical and numerical effort on “Modelling microgels” in close synergy with experiments, MICROTECH proposes to exploit this fascinating class of soft colloids in a new application for cultural heritage.

Microgels are colloidal-scale polymer networks, whose properties intrinsically depend on those of the constituent polymers. While most studies deal with thermoresponsive ones, here we propose to use gellan gum, a widely used biopolymer, since gellan gum hydrogels have been previously used to treat paper artifacts. We recently showed the use of gellan gum microgels is more advantageous with respect to hydrogels both in terms of efficacy and of application time. The proposed technology is ground-breaking because it will significantly reduce the economic costs of the treatment, it is environmentally friendly and also versatile. Indeed, we will functionalize the gellan macromolecule in order to optimize the specific interactions with the different nature of the surfaces to be treated.