New insights into the deterioration of TiO2 based oil paints: the effects of illumination conditions and surface interactions

  • Thomas Schmitt (Creator)
  • Francesca Rosi (Creator)
  • Edoardo Mosconi (Creator)
  • Kenneth R Shull (Creator)
  • Simona Fantacci (Creator)
  • Costanza Miliani (Creator)
  • Kimberly A Gray (Creator)



Abstract Titanium dioxide (TiO2) has been used in numerous paintings since its creation in the early 1920s. However, due to this relatively recent adoption by the art world, we have limited knowledge about the nature and risk of degradation in museum environments. This study expands on the existing understanding of TiO2 facilitated degradation of linseed oil, by examining the effect of visible light and crystallographic phase (either anatase or rutile) on the reactivity of TiO2. The present approach is based on a combination of experimental chemical characterization with computational calculation through Density Functional Theory (DFT) modeling of the TiO2-oil system. Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR-FT-IR) enabled the identification of characteristic degradation products during UV and visible light aging of both rutile and anatase based paints in comparison to BaSO4 and linseed oil controls. In addition, cratering and cracking of the paint surface in TiO2 based paints, aged under visible and UV–vis illumination, were observed through Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). Finally, Density Functional Theory (DFT) modeling of interactions between anatase TiO2 and oleic acid, a fatty acid component of linseed oil, to form a charge transfer complex explains one possible mechanism for the visible light activity observed in artificial aging. Visible light excitation of this complex sensitizes TiO2 by injecting an electron into the conduction band of TiO2 to generate reactive oxygen species and subsequent degradation of the oil binder by various mechanisms (e.g., formation of an oleic acid cation radical and other oxidation products). Graphical Abstract
Date made available2022

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