The ESRF has allowed scientists to discover nanoparticles that could lead to degradation in a 500-year-old shipwreck: the Mary Rose, an English warship.
Almost 40 years ago, a salvage operation brought to the surface the Mary Rose warship, which used to be Henry VIII’s favourite warship and sank in 1545. Throughout these years, scientists have been using conservation treatments to preserve it. Unfortunately, the remains of the ship are vulnerable to degradation after spending more than 400 years at the bottom of the sea, where harmful deposits collected inside the ship’s wooden hull.
A team of researchers, led by the University of Sheffield, has used ctPDF, an x-ray technique developed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and Columbia University, to obtain vital information on the nanostructure of substances lodged within the ship’s wood and that could lead to the Mary Rose degrading.
Researchers were previously unable to obtain information on the nature and structure of these deposits, as they are incredibly diverse and exist on such a small scale. The fragility of the remains also hindered efforts to find out more about the substances.
ctPDF has enabled researchers to identify the harmful deposits for the first time and in a non-destructive way. Serena Cussen, Chair in Functional Nanomaterials at the University of Sheffield and corresponding author of the publication, explains: “This project has brought together researchers from around the world to uncover the nature of potentially harmful deposits lodged within the wooden hull of the Mary Rose. These deposits, when exposed to air, can act to degrade the wood. By understanding their structure, we might understand better these degradation pathways, as well as develop treatments that target their removal”.
Read more on the ESRF website
Image: The hull of the Mary Rose
Credit: The Mary Rose Trust