The European IMAT project (2011-2014), coordinated by the University of Florence, aimed to develop innovative treatment methodology and nanotechnology for paintings and other cultural heritage objects based on targeted precision heat transfer. Since 2011, the IMAT nanothermic mats with conductive carbon nanotube materials have been used in test experimentation, operating over a range of temperature that exceeds that used in conservation practice (ambient – 85ºC), and outperforming all other heat transfer instruments in current use. The mats deliver heat with precision and versatility, and permit the conservator to tailor heat transfer treatments to the custom needs of the project, over small or large areas.
Nanomaterials allow thermal conduction at an ultra-low voltage of 36 V, that cannot pass the skin barrier, and reduce energy consumption. High conductivity coupled with the low thermal mass of carbon nanotubes allows for very rapid thermal response, resulting in short heating and cooling times, critical in maintaining steady temperatures in both in higher (40ºC to 85ºC) and lower range (20ºC to 40ºC). Accuracy at low temperature may be applied over longer heating periods, so as to gradually and uniformly permeate the entire paint, ground and canvas structure. The thin, flexible profile of the mat allows it to be inserted between the canvas verso and the wood secondary support, permitting conservators to perform minimally invasive treatments while on the stretcher. Breathable flexible heaters with air permeability offered new opportunities in treating planar distortions, conservation of earlier treatments, and more. The prototype nano-mat was also experimented in new cleaning methods to optimize enzymatic hydrogels and in a non-solvent removal of the pressure-sensitive tape, treatment of planar deformations in plastics and new applications continue to emerge. Currently, IMAT mats and temperature management system remain at the research project prototype Technical Readiness Level 5. Upscaling and development of production is expected in the future and we are looking forward collaborating with interested industries and developers.
IMAT project was ideated by Nina Olsson and Tomas Markevicius, and coordinated by the University of Florence, and included Department of Industrial and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Florence, Sefar AG (Switzerland), Future Carbon GbmH (Germany), SRAL (the Netherlands), Lorenzo Conti (Italy), Laura Amorosi (Italy), Lithuanian Art Museum (Lithuania), CTS (Italy).