Antimicrobial Nanomaterials for Cultural Heritage Conservation

Microorganisms are highly proficient at inhabiting and decaying paper, leather and stone objects, generating serious problems for the conservation of paintings, textiles and sculptures.1 The associated health risks coupled with the cost of decontaminating infected artefacts, exhibition rooms and depots make this a pertinent topic for museums, local authorities and private collectors alike.2 Moreover, our shared cultural heritage is a social, economic and environmental resource for Europe.3 Our aim is to engineer novel nanohybrid materials with enhanced antimicrobial properties that will act as biocidal agents to help prevent biodeterioration in objects of cultural heritage.4

Constructing modular and highly processable nanomaterials offers a unique opportunity to produce precision biocides that meet the specific needs of cultural heritage conservation (e.g highly applicable colourless gels, waxes, sols etc.).5 We use comprehensive antimicrobial functional development programmes to assess the activity of these materials against bacterial and fungal strains commonly found infecting objects of cultural heritage. Ultimately the most active and applicable candidates are evaluated against biodeteriorative microorganism contaminants on paper, leather and stone surfaces in the laboratory as well as in real heritage objects from our collaborators.6,7,8

Preventing microbial colonisation of paper heritage using MgO-NPs7,8



We carry out this research with professional support from the CSIC Interdisciplinary Thematic Platform Open Heritage: Research and Society (PTI-PAIS).


  1. K. Sterflinger and G. Piñar, Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol., 2013, 97, 9637–9646.
  2. K. Sterflinger, Fungal Biol. Rev., 2010, 24, 47–55.
  3. ‘Conclusions on cultural heritage as a strategic resource for a sustainable Europe 20th May 2014’
  5. I. Franco-Castillo, L. Hierro, J. M. de la Fuente, A. Seral-Ascaso, * S. G. Mitchell* Chem 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.chempr.2021.01.006
  6. A. Misra, I. Franco Castillo, D. Müller, C. González, S. Eyssautier-Chuine, A. Ziegler, J. M. de la Fuente; S. G. Mitchell & C. Streb. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2018, 130 (45), 15142-15147.
  7. I. Franco Castillo, L. De Matteis,C. Marquina, E. García Guillén, J. M. de la Fuente & S. G. MitchellInternational Biodegradation & Biodeterioration, 2018, 141, 79-86.
  8.  I. Franco-Castillo, E. García-Guillén, J. M. de la Fuente, F. Silva, S. G. Mitchell, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 2019, 7 (41), 6412-6419