Today: Tuesday, 18 January 2022 year

Science: Bacteria used to clean ancient art

Science: Bacteria used to clean ancient art

The ancient frescoes, statues, and tombs need to be cleaned regularly to keep their beauty and historical originality. To save the rich architectural heritage of Italy, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies (ENEA) offered to apply an organic method: special bacteria will clean ancient art.

The ENEA’s library of microorganisms is an essential tool for art restoration work. For example, to clean Michelangelo’s work in the Florentine Medici Chapels, the Italian restorers welcome using of three types of bacteria. In two nights, the bacteria cleaned centuries of dirt without leaving any damage or residue on the marble.

The scientists chose 11 strains of bacteria from the agency’s store of more than 1,500 viruses, algae, bacteria, and fungi to test their effectiveness. They then prepared the three most efficient for use.

Some strains of bacteria are starved, so they are hungry when applied to the dirty artwork, while others are grown to enhance their cleaning capabilities. Once ready for use, the bacteria are immobilised in a gel for easy application. As simple as genial, the experts say.

Application in gel form makes the bacteria easy to clean off after they have done their work. And thanks to their very specific diets, the bacteria do not damage the artworks by eating anything other than what they should. This specificity avoids the damage to artwork caused by earlier, harsher cleaning methods.

Other bacteria-based innovations spotted by Springwise include cement-dwelling bacteria that flag building damage, and 3D-printed ‘living ink’, Springwise has learned.