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Centre for Sustainable Heritage (CSH)

Heritage Science Laboratory

The Heritage Science Laboratory, which was opened in 2010, is a state-of-the-art research and teaching facility of the Centre for Sustainable Heritage at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies. It consists of 100 m2 laboratory space with three separate laboratory areas and a quiet write-up area.

Heritage Science Laboratory

The laboratory is used by UCL academic and research staff, PhD students and students of the MRes Heritage Science and MSc Sustainable Heritage courses. Visiting researchers are also welcome.The facility is fully equipped with instruments for environmental and material characterisation. For maximum versatility, small and portable advanced equipment that can be used for scientific investigations in museums, galleries, libraries, archives and historic properties are available.

Material characterisation

We use infrared (IR) and near infrared (NIR) spectrometry, colourimetry for measurements of colour change, and profilometry for measurements of surface roughness. Below is a list of instruments we use:

  • Bruker Alpha FTIR (ATR, DRIFT and transmission) Spectrometer
  • PHAZIR handheld NIR Spectrometer
  • Labspec 5000 fibre-optics based NIR Spectrometer
  • Innowep Traceit Optical Profilometer
  • X-Rite 530 Colourimeter
Handheld Phazir NIR spectrometer

hoto: Characterisation of a cellulose acetate comb with the handheld Phazir NIR spectrometer.

Environmental characterisation

Our capabilities include measurements of various traffic and indoor generated pollutants, and emissions from materials using a bench top gas chromatograph and a portable mass spectrometer. We can also undertake long-term environmental monitoring. The following equipment is available:

  • Perkin Elmer Clarus 500 gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer with a Gerstel automated headspace sampler and an Automated Thermal Desorption unit
  • ppbRAE 3000 total-VOC Meter
  • KORE MS-200 Portable Mass Spectrometer
  • HOBO dataloggers T/RH/light
  • Teledyne API Sulfur Dioxide M100 meter and logger
  • Teledyne API Ozone M400 meter and logger
  • Teledyne API Nitrogen Oxide M200 meter and logger
  • PPM Technology Formaldemeter
  • Gradko DC1100 particle monitors (1.0 & 5.0 and 0.5 & 2.5 um)
  • SKC 5-pump active air sampling kit (particles and pollutants)
  • Senceive FLATMESH Wireless sensor networks with the following sensing capabilities: temperature, relative humidity, UV light, visible light, RGB light, formaldehyde, total volatile organic compounds, dust. This network was developed in the Heritage Intelligence project.
Teledyne pollution monitors and dataloggers

Photo: Teledyne pollution monitors and dataloggers in use during the Identical Books project, at the British Library.

Material degradation research

We have a number of reactors available for studies in well-defined environmental conditions (T, RH, pollutant concentration) and the following equipment for analysis:

  • VICI Metronics Dynacalibrator 150 Calibrated air pollutant source
  • Instruquest, V-Gen Model 1 Calibrated Air humidifier
  • Ageing chambers
  • Fume hood
  • Viscometry measurement setup
  • Metrohm pH-meter
  • Analytical balance
Marta Oriola

Photo: viscosity measurements of painting canvases, performed by Marta Oriola, visiting researcher at CSH.

Reference sample archive

Collections of sacrificial historic materials are stored in controlled conditions (4 oC) for future research:

  • Plastic (collection of several 100, from 19th century historic to modern plastics)
  • Parchment (collection of ~50, 16th - 20th century)
  • Paper (collection of several 100, including the SurveNIR historic paper reference collection of ~1000 well-characterised samples)
  • Iron gall ink (well-characterised collection of ~80 samples of 19th and 20th century inks)
  • Colour photographs (collection of ~2000, ~100 well characterised samples)

Under certain conditions, the collections may be made available for research purposes, please enquire.