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Comparative Study of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy in Transmission, Attenuated Total Reflection, and Total Reflection Modes for the Analysis of Plastics in the Cultural Heritage Field

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This study was completed within the framework of two research projects dealing with the conservation of contemporary artworks. The first is the Seventh Framework Project (FP7) of the European Union, Preservation of Plastic ARTefacts in Museum Collections (POPART), spanning years 2008‐2012, and the second is the Italian project funded by the Tuscan Region, Preventive Conservation of Contemporary Art (Conservazione Preventiva dell'Arte Contemporanea (COPAC)), spanning 2011‐2013. Both of these programs pointed out the great importance of having noninvasive and portable analytical techniques that can be used to investigate and characterize modern and contemporary artworks, especially those consisting of synthetic polymers. Indeed, despite the extensive presence of plastics in museum collections, there is still a lack of analytical tools for identifying, characterizing, and setting up adequate conservation strategies for these materials. In this work, the potentials of in situ and noninvasive Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy, implemented by means of portable devices that operate in reflection mode, are investigated with a view to applying the results in large-scale surveys of plastic objects in museums. To this end, an essential prerequisite are the reliability of spectral data acquired in situ and the availability of spectral databases acquired from reference materials. A collection of polymeric samples, which are available commercially as ResinKit, was analyzed to create a reference spectral archive. All the spectra were recorded using three FT-IR configurations: transmission (trans), attenuated total reflection (ATR), and total reflection (TR). A comparative evaluation of the data acquired using the three instrumental configurations is presented, together with an evaluation of the similarity percentages and a discussion of the critical cases.

Keywords: Contemporary art; FT-IR; Noncontact FT-IR; Noninvasive Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy; Polymers; Total reflection

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Nello Carrara Institute of Applied Physics of the National Research Council (IFAC-CNR), Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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