Skip directly to content

Green cleaning of mid-20th century artwork

Since the 1950s, the number of acrylic paintings acquired by museums has grown almost exponentially. These works of art represent a significant cultural asset both in terms of their sheer monetary value and from the standpoint of their social, economic and cultural importance. However, the buildup of indoor air pollution on the paintings over the years now requires removal to preserve the art.

To address this issue, a collaborative research effort between the University of Delaware and Villanova University developed "green" solvents to clean modern art surfaces. The aqueous microemulsions are tailored solutions easily applied and removed from the surface of acrylic paintings by conservators in accord with the code of ethics of The American Institute for Conservation for treatment and analysis of cultural objects.

Although conservators have had over five centuries to develop preservation methods for traditional oil paintings, fundamental research on the cleaning and preservation of acrylic paintings began just in the last decade.


  • a researcher gently cleans an acrylic painting with a microemulsion
A researcher cleans an acrylic painting with a microemulsion.
Anthony Lagalante, Villanova University and Richard Wolbers, University of Delaware

Recent Award Highlights

nanotubes skewer thin polymer crystals of three different sizes

Repelling water with buckypaper

Enhanced nanotube mat could be used in sensor or electronics applications

Research Areas: Chemistry & Materials, Nanoscience Locations: Pennsylvania
a platinum-iridium tip before (left) and after (right) sharpening

Sharper tips for microscopy

Metal probes benefit from sputter sharpening

Research Areas: Engineering, Chemistry & Materials Locations: Delaware Florida Illinois