ERC-PoC Graphene as effective anti-fading agent for the protection of artworks

GRAPHENART is a highlighted ERC POC Grant that has been publicized in local and international media.


All art materials are generally prone to degradation. In particular, the 20th century cultural heritage shows short lifetime expectancy due to the introduction of novel materials and techniques. The exposition of contemporary artworks to UV and visible light, also in addition to oxidizing agents, trigger some degradation effects, such as fading, yellowing and discolouration. The result of these degradation mechanisms is the severe and irreversible alteration of the readability of the artworks, which is an inestimable legacy of mankind.

“The Bedroom” by Vincent Van Gogh (left) and its digital reconstruction as it probably looked when first painted (right).
It is interesting that fading of red pigments originally used in this painting have turned the purple wall blue and the pink floor brown.
Credits: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Scientists have recently discovered that the cadmium yellow adopted by Van Gogh in the painting “Flowers in a blue vase”,  in unvarnished paintings, oxidizes with air thus losing luminosity and color. Reprinted with permission from (Geert Van der Snickt, Koen Janssens, Joris Dik, et al, Anal. Chem., 2012, 84 (23), pp 10221–10228). Copyright (2012) American Chemical Society.



ERC-PoC GRAPHENART addresses the design and development of innovative, multi-functional graphene-based products with engineered activities such as UV shielding, de-acidification, oxygen and humidity barrier to be used as anti-fading agents for the protection of modern paintings and artworks.

Graphene-related materials have been found to provide considerable ultraviolet shielding as coatings, while a single layer CVD graphene absorbs up to 3 times more in the UV region (190-400 nm), than in the visible range. Additionally, chemical molecules such as water or oxygen cannot penetrate a continuous graphene membrane providing the ultimate shield against degradation.

Development of an invisible veil of graphene that can provide protection for old and contemporary paintings against UV radiation, humidity, oxygen or any other chemical penetration.
Addition of graphene flakes to artists’ colour varnishes but also to architectural paints that can be used for the creation of artworks and coating with intrinsic enhanced UV, oxidation and humidity resistance