From fairy-tale fortresses to majestic monasteries, preserving Europe's cultural treasures takes time and money. New all-natural materials developed by EU-funded researchers could help ensure that cleaning and protection become less frequent and less costly.
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A lack of funds or access to suitable materials is putting the preservation of Europe’s cultural heritage at risk. The EU-funded HEROMAT project team believes that it has addressed these challenges by offering natural, long-lasting solutions to reduce the need for ongoing maintenance.
The project’s three products cover consolidative materials for carbonate substrates and silicate substrates and a photocatalytic suspension (which absorbs light) for application on cultural heritage objects such as brick, render, mortar and stone. These products have already been used on restoration projects in Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia.
The project team found that the application of these newly developed materials could extend the period between restoration procedures, increasing the lifetime of cultural heritage assets and other buildings and decreasing investments in cleaning and protection. The products also preserve the authenticity, functionality and aesthetic appearance of cultural assets, and are derived from natural ingredients that do not impact the environment.
“Three novel materials are now fully developed, with pilot lines set up to enable project partners to produce dozens of litres of all three HEROMAT products,” says project coordinator Jonjaua Ranogajec from the Faculty of Technology Novi Sad, Serbia. “Right now, the products are ready for industrial production, and once available on the market, should have wide application potential, both in terms of cultural heritage protection and even modern civil engineering.”
HEROMAT targeted the types of inorganic mineral substrate surfaces that are common to many cultural heritage objects, such as stone, brick, mortar, render and colour finishing layers. The team also examined the potential impact of certain photocatalytic materials on concrete. “The results of these tests are currently being evaluated, and if the results are positive, this would open up further possibilities for HEROMAT products in modern construction,” says Ranogajec.
Natural solutions for man-made monuments
The HEROMAT products will be marketed through networks developed during the project, and will target the specialised field of cultural heritage protection (such as the upkeep of fortresses, churches and monasteries). The project also developed a methodology for assessing the adhesion characteristics of the photocatalytic suspension on porous mineral substrates, and for assessing the antifungal characteristics of porous mineral substrates.
During the project, the HEROMAT team, which came from Serbia, Slovenia, Italy, the UK and Russia, used their results to restore two buildings of historical importance: the 14th century Bač fortress in Serbia and the 17th century Dornava manor in rural Slovenia. New building materials were also applied to two other historical structures: the Petrovaradin Fortress in Serbia and a church in Croatia.
Project results have been published in reviewed scientific papers, while HEROMAT also featured during Europe Heritage Days, a locally-led EU initiative that provides access to thousands of rarely opened sites to over 20 million people every year. By participating, HEROMAT hopes to have helped reconnect citizens with local cultural landmarks.
Towards the end of the project, activities have focused more on how best to commercialise the project’s positive results, as well as on identifying new possibilities for applications. The project is due for completion at the end of November 2015.