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Preventing colour fading in artworks with graphene veils


Modern and contemporary art materials are generally prone to irreversible colour changes upon exposure to light and oxidizing agents. Graphene can be produced in thin large sheets, blocks ultraviolet light, and is impermeable to oxygen, moisture and corrosive agents; therefore, it has the potential to be used as a transparent layer for the protection of art objects in museums, during storage and transportation. Here we show that a single-layer or multilayer graphene veil, produced by chemical vapour deposition, can be deposited over artworks to protect them efficiently against colour fading, with a protection factor of up to 70%. We also show that this process is reversible since the graphene protective layer can be removed using a soft rubber eraser without causing any damage to the artwork. We have also explored a complementary contactless graphene-based route for colour protection that is based on the deposition of graphene on picture framing glass for use when the direct application of graphene is not feasible due to surface roughness or artwork fragility. Overall, the present results are a proof of concept of the potential use of graphene as an effective and removable protective advanced material to prevent colour fading in artworks.

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Fig. 1: Graphene deposition onto artworks.
Fig. 2: Ageing of mock-ups with graphene veils.
Fig. 3: Mechanism of protection against photo-fading of colours.
Fig. 4: Ageing of an artwork with graphene.
Fig. 5: The removal of the graphene membrane from an artwork.
Fig. 6: The protection of colour underneath the graphene layer.

Data availability

The data that supports the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.


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We acknowledge support from the European Research Council (ERC) through the GraphenART (779985) Proof-of-Concept project, and the APACHE (814496) project funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The painter M. Stavropoulou is sincerely thanked for donating original artworks for our experiments. C. Malliaris (FORTH/ICEHT) is thanked for designing and developing the roll-to-roll transfer system. G. A. Voyiatzis and G. Mathioudakis (FORTH/ICEHT) are thanked for performing the water vapour permeability measurements. D. Vroulias, V. Dracopoulos and T. Ioannides (FORTH/ICEHT) are thanked for performing the oxygen permeability measurements. Finally, the Laser, Non-Linear and Quantum Optics Laboratory of the Physics Department, University of Patras is acknowledged for the surface roughness measurements and the Plasma Technology Laboratory of the Chemical Engineering Department, University of Patras for the contact angle measurements.

Author information




M.K., G.G., M.G.P.C., G. Pa., G. Po. and G.T. designed and performed the experiments. M.K., G.A. and A.M. interpreted the data. M.G.P.C., G.G. and G. Po. drafted the manuscript. C.G. and P.B. conceived the work, participated in its design and coordination, supervised all experimental procedures and revised the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to C. Galiotis.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

A patent has been granted from the Hellenic Industrial Property Organisation (No. 1009757) while two applications (Nos. PCT/EP2019/085993 and EP21155800) have been submitted to the European Patent Office (EPO). The following authors are involved in the patents: M.K., G.G., M.G.P.C., G.A., G.Pa., G.Po., P.B. and C.G. The remaining authors (A.M. and G.T.) declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Gary Cheng, Jun Zhang and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Comparison of graphene veils with commercial products adopted in prevention of colour fading.

Reflectance spectra before (a) and during ageing for 4 weeks (b to e) with Neon Light for mockups dyed with methyl blue (MB), coated with mono-, bi- and tri-layer graphene (1LG, 2LG and 3LG) and coated with commercial spray (UV1) and commercial varnish (UV2). Pictures of the specimens before (i) and after ageing (ii) are shown in F. PF for UV1 and UV2 after ageing are, respectively, 25.7% and 46.6%.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Protection factors (%) for all the investigated coloured mockups.

Glossy paper (a), cardboard (b) and canvas paper (c) upon UV light exposure; glossy paper upon white/visible light exposure (d); Tartrazine on cardboard paper upon UV light exposure (e); cardboard/filter paper upon neon light exposure (f).

Extended Data Fig. 3 Graphene-enhanced picture framing glasses.

a, Typical Raman spectra of graphene transferred on “museum” glass. b, Statistical analysis of 2D/G intensity ratio from analysis of Raman mapping. c, Representative AFM topography of monolayer CVD graphene transferred on glass. d, Ultraviolet and visible transmittance spectra for “museum” glass with and without monolayer graphene. e, Pictures of commercial glass (FLABEG ARTControl UV60) and of the same glass coated in the central area with a single graphene layer. As shown, graphene is imperceptible and the glass transparency is not lost after graphene deposition. f, Protection factors for the commercial museum glass and the same coated with single layer graphene. Graphene coating offers an enhancement by ca. 40%.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–14, Methods, Discussion and Tables 1–5.

Supplementary Video 1

Graphene-based solutions for innovative coatings.

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Kotsidi, M., Gorgolis, G., Pastore Carbone, M.G. et al. Preventing colour fading in artworks with graphene veils. Nat. Nanotechnol. 16, 1004–1010 (2021).

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