Neutrons render the structure of the organogels visible
The answer to this question comes from the Research Neutron Source Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II) at the TUM Garching campus. Neutrons, whose wavelengths are shorter than the wavelengths of light, can be used to reveal structures of only a few nanometers in size. "Neutrons are absolutely necessary in order to understand the structure and dynamics of the organogels," Baglioni points out.
His team used the SANS-1 instrument, a special measuring device for Small-Angle Neutron Scattering" (SANS). "Until now there has been little research on organogels. The investigations at FRM II reveal for the first time their nanostructure and provide information on how the structure changes when the polymers are charged with organic solvents," says Baglioni.
The team used the results of the investigation to optimize the new cleaning agent. In a practical test, restorers at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice were given a stiff organogel as well as a container full of the solvent. The components are easy to store, can be mixed as needed and applied to paintings. The new cleaning agent was recently used to successfully restore a painting by Giorgio de Chirico which had been difficult to clean using conventional methods.