Researchers find way to protect historic limestone buildings

December 4, 2012

Buildings and statues constructed of limestone can be protected from pollution by applying a thin, single layer of a water-resistant coating.

That's the word from a University of Iowa researcher and her colleagues from Cardiff University in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, from the publishers of Nature. In the study, the researchers report a new way to minimize chemical reactions that cause buildings to deteriorate, according to Vicki Grassian, F. Wendell Miller professor in the UI departments of chemistry and chemical and biochemical engineering.

The coating includes a mixture of derived from olive oil and fluorinated substances that increase limestone's resistance to pollution.

"This paper demonstrates that buildings and statues made out of limestone can be protected from degradation by atmospheric corrosion, such as corrosion due to pollutant molecules and particulate matter in air, by applying a thin, one-layer coating of a ," she says. "We showed in particular that the degradation of limestone from reaction with sulfur dioxide and sulfate particles could be minimized with an application of this coating."

One of the buildings the researchers chose for their study was York Minster, a cathedral located in York, England, and one of the largest structures of its kind in . Construction of the current cathedral began in the 1260s, and it was completed and consecrated in 1472.

Grassian says York Minster was a perfect structure to study because its limestone surface has been exposed for decades to , sulfur dioxide and other pollutants. She notes other historic limestone structures could benefit from the coating, including many in the United States.

She notes other attempts have been made to protect existing stonework in sites; however, those coatings block the stone and prevent the edifice from "breathing," thus creating mold and salt buildup.

Grassian, along with fellow authors Gayan Rubasinghege and Jonas Baltrusatis of the UI chemistry department, have been studying for years reactions of atmospheric gases with minerals such as limestone. In earlier studies, they have shown through detailed analysis that could easily degrade limestone and that this degradation reaction was enhanced in the presence of relative humidity.

Explore further: Patented technology captures carbon dioxide from power plants

Related Stories

Heritage site under attack by flowers

December 20, 2011

The results of a study conducted by Serbian researchers, in collaboration with the Laboratoire de Dynamique, Interactions et Réactivité, are unequivocal: the Belgrade fortress is not only threatened by the effects ...

Graphene is thinnest known anti-corrosion coating

February 22, 2012

New research has established the "miracle material" called graphene as the world's thinnest known coating for protecting metals against corrosion. Their study on this potential new use of graphene appears in ACS Nano.

Recommended for you

Organic semiconductors get weird at the edge

October 6, 2015

As the push for tinier and faster electronics continues, a new finding by scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Monash University could help inform the design of the next generation of cheaper, more efficient ...

New polymer creates safer fuels

October 1, 2015

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact. Researchers ...

Researchers print inside gels to create unique shapes

September 30, 2015

(—A team of researchers at the University of Florida has taken the technique of printing objects inside of a gel a step further by using a highly shear-rate sensitive gel. In their paper published in the journal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.