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Start date: Nov 1, 2011, End date: Oct 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The IMAT project aims to integrate the cutting edge research in nanotechnology with that of cultural heritage conservation for the development of new advanced conservation techniques and materials. A consortium of researchers representing expertise in the areas of art conservation, nanotechnology, and thermo-electrical engineering, has been assembled with the purpose of inventing an advanced precision heating technology and designing a series of portable, highly accurate flexible mild heating devices specifically for broad application in the field of art conservation, employing, but not limited to the new technology of carbon nanotubes (CNT).The new technology and product acknowledges and responds to a glaring omission in fundamental conservation instrumentation. The control over the application of heat often constitutes the core of success in structural treatment of diverse cultural heritage objects, yet sources currently available to conservators are unable to guarantee accuracy, control or uniformity, and therefore may compromise the favourable outcome of treatment.The lack of mobile high precision and accessible instrumentation impacts conservation treatment capacities and the long-term preservation of irreplaceable cultural heritage in the most direct way, since objects may be and are exposed to risk because of inadequate or unavailable instrumentation. This is particularly relevant to treatments that take place in the field, including emergency responses, that often must rely on inadequate tools. The heating table, long considered a basic piece of laboratory equipment for previous methodologies, is now out of sync with the current direction of conservation that favours minimally invasive treatments with respect to those of the past and requires enhanced mobility and versatility. The IMAT goals therefore will hit the core of this problem in many ways and the results will have a lasting impact on conservation methodology and beyond.The unique properties of carbon nanotube (CNT) materials will allow for the design of thin, lightweight, even transparent, stretchable and woven mild heaters with low power needs as an ultra-portable, versatile and efficient alternative for diverse thermal treatments. The development of the IMAT device and methodology will represent a unique opportunity to impact the field of conservation of heritage products in a significant manner, and the full extent of the potential for application will become evident only during the execution of the three-year project. Further application of the technology to fields outside of art conservation, such as art transportation, medical field, aeronautics, car industry, apparel industry and more will be investigated. The project was conceived with a research-based objective, focusing on the creation of the IMAT device in order to improve the quality, accessibility and cost effectiveness of a fundamental tool for art conservators in Europe and globally.
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