Aviation and aerospace technology as part of our heritage: characterization of the materials and preservation strategies



Jacopo La Nasa

Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry, University of Pisa


Ilaria Bonaduce

Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry, University of Pisa


Francesca Modugno

Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry, University of Pisa


Historical airplanes and aerospace equipment have entered museum collections to show the development of aviation and are now considered part of our technical heritage, attracting a wide and heterogeneous public. From the first human flights to the latest aircraft and space technologies, a wide variety of materials has been tested and introduced to push the technological limits and obtain better performances. The giant progression of the chemical industry together with the fast evolution of the aircraft technology led to the introduction on new synthetic organic material, such as varnishes and coatings, and the use of new metal alloys. The study of these materials represents a crucial challenge in Heritage Science, due to the fact that they are often complex mixtures of several chemical species, and that are generally tested and developed to be durable and stable for the lifetime of the aircraft, while their long-term durability is unknown. Some of these materials are likely prone to corrosion and degradation upon exposure to light, oxygen, and biological agents. The session will host contributions describing developments and applications of analytical and diagnostic tools to identify historical aviation materials, and to investigate their degradation processes, with the goal of achieving a better knowledge of past technological practices and to contribute and to plan scientifically informed preventive conservation and restoration strategies, in order to guarantee accessibility to this precious heritage for future generations.


Jacopo La Nasa received his PhD in analytical chemistry at the University of Pisa in 2015 with a thesis on the development of new methods based on pyrolysis, chromatography, and mass spectrometry for the characterization and ageing studies of modern materials in artworks. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pisa in the SCIBEC research group. His research mainly focuses on the development of new analytical tools based on mass spectrometry for the study of natural and synthetic organic materials in heritage objects and in environmental samples. He is the author of more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed multidisciplinary journals and more than 90 contributions in national and international conferences.

Ilaria Bonaduce is Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of the University of Pisa. She teaches Analytical Chemistry for the master course and the bachelor course in Chemistry. Her research focuses on the development and implementation of analytical methods for characterising organic materials collected from artworks, as well as understanding physico-chemical processes involved in paint film formation. This research is on one side dedicated at the reliable identification of organic materials in paint samples to reconstruct painting techniques and technologies of the past, and on the other at understanding the organic material degradation in works of art, to suport conservation practice and design of resilient artist's materials.

Francesca Modugno, PhD, is Full Professor in Analytical Chemistry at University of Pisa. After graduation cum laude in Chemistry in 1997, Francesca Modugno received a PhD in Chemical Science from the University of Pisa in 2001. Her doctoral thesis dealt with the development of analytical methods for the characterisation of paint binders and varnishes employing gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. From 2001 to 2015 she has been a permanent lecturer and researcher, and from 2015 to 2020 Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of University of Pisa. FM teaches Analytical Chemistry and Chemometrics.
Her research activity deals with the application of analytical methods based on chromatography and mass spectrometry to the characterisation and the study of the natural and synthetic organic materials in the cultural heritage and the environment, with specific attention to lipids, proteins, terpenic resins, lignocellulosic materials, synthetic polymers, microplastics. Her interests include the study of chemical transformations and the degradation processes of materials during ageing and the effect of environmental parameters on these processes.
FM is Editor for the scientific journals Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis and Scientific Reports.

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