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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P002439/1
Title: The Mechanisms of Fatigue of Viscoeleastic Multilayer Paint Systems on Wood
Principal Investigator: Young, Professor C
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AKZO Nobel National Trust
Department: School of Culture & Creative Arts
Organisation: University of Glasgow
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2017 Ends: 31 August 2021 Value (£): 285,011
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Conservation Of Art & Textiles Materials Characterisation
Materials testing & eng.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Jun 2016 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 1 and 2 June 2016 Announced
03 Aug 2016 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 3 August 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In 2010 an international roundtable discussion, entitled " The Plus or Minus Debate", was held between 600 conservators, scientists and collections care professionals to explore and re-evaluate the environmental guidelines, advances in environmental research and the implications for collections, archives and libraries. The impetus for this meeting was the realisation that efficient environmental control has become essential in the light of the future energy crisis, the worldwide economic downturn, and a rising awareness of green technology. For over four decades the environmental guidelines for museums and institutions have been defined within narrow parameters. Conditions for multi-layer painted wooden objects in particular are amongst the most tightly controlled. We have empirical evidence (warping and splitting wood, cracking and delamination of paint) that these objects are vulnerable to continual environmental changes mainly because of the hydroscopic response of wood. However, we have yet to establish a correlation between environmental changes, the variations in the original preparation layers and the resulting different crack patterns or delamination at particular interfaces. Nor do we have sufficient data to reliably use crack patterns as indicators of particular mechanical failures within the structure.

This project aims to highlight the mechanisms which lead to initiation and propagation of cracks as a result of environmental conditions in painted wooden cultural heritage, and how these eventually lead to delamination of the painted surface or underlying layers. This damage can lead to loss of the image or motif, resulting in changes to the aesthetic of the work, change in meaning and appreciation of the viewer. Compositional differences in the preparation and paint layers mean that the possible interfaces at which cracks can initiate are considerable. In the past it was assumed that if the environmental conditions do not cause deformation of the object beyond its ultimate tensile strain then no permanent damage will occur. However, fatigue is a possible long term problem where objects are continuously subjected to small environmental changes even within a limited range of temperature and relative humidity. It is therefore timely to undertake research to understand under what conditions environmentally induced fatigue could lead to delamination of painted surfaces in wooden objects.

The methodology will be established considering multiple paint systems on wood. These systems are also found on polychrome sculpture, painted musical instruments, ethnographic objects and contemporary art. This will be achieved by an interdisciplinary project which will include determining the history of cyclic strain based on moisture and thermal deformation and the induced failure in different layers. The temperature, moisture and strain rate dependent (viscoelastic) properties of the constituent materials of the objects make this research a particular challenge both for the modelling and experimental testing. Published data and data collected from specific collections of environmental fluctuations, plus measured deformations of panel paintings, will be used as parameters for experimental fatigue testing. This simulates real fluctuating conditions but at a higher frequency: to a first approximation, this is equivalent to the induced deformations caused over hundreds of years of environmental changes. These results will be used to validate the modelling. Finally, accurate predictions for the lifetime of the painted panels will be made and compared to the Bizot (a group of the world's leading museums) 2015 guidelines for environmental control to ascertain what effects they might have on the condition of these objects. The research will provide experimental and simulation data of fatigue lifetimes for panel paintings and related cultural heritage that can be used to inform strategies for environmental control and collections care.
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