Artifacts Preserved with Graphene Gilding


Researchers improved the ancient gilding technique by coating it with an additional layer of carbon atoms to preserve artifacts.

During ancient times, the important sculptures were coated with thin metal films using gilding, which makes the sculptures resistant to heat, corrosion, and degradation for thousands of years. An example could be the coffins of Tutankhamun with gold leaf gilded in the middle and outer layers, which is preserved since ancient times.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed upon the ancient process of gilding by creating a single layer of carbon atoms, known as graphene, above the thin metal films. This new technique is bound to increase the protective quality of gilding against potential damages.

The study is published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials on September 2018, titled: “Gilding with Graphene—Rapid Chemical Vapor Deposition Synthesis of Graphene on Thin Metal Leaves.” Palladium metal was used for developing the thin metal leaves that was coated with graphene.

The researchers observed that by coating graphene layers to metal leaves, the quality of mechanical resistance increased. This technology has potential to improve the protective coatings in large structures that are subjected to continuous wear and tear such as ship hulls, metal surfaces of consumer electronics, and small precious artifacts or jewelry.

Sameh Tawfick, an assistant professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said: “Adding one more layer of graphene atoms onto the palladium made it twice as resistant to indents than the bare leaves alone. It’s also very attractive from a cost perspective. The amount of graphene needed to cover the gilded structures of the Carbide & Carbon Building in Chicago, for example, would be the size of the head of a pin.”

Moreover, the team developed a unique process of depositing graphene over palladium sheets, which saves time and is economical.


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