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The multi-analytical in situ analysis of cadmium-based pigments in plastics

Journal article
Authors Eva Mariasole Angelin
Marta Ghirardello
Sara Babo
Marcello Picollo
Laura Chelazzi
Maria João Melo
Austin Nevin
Gianluca Valentini
Daniela Comelli
Published in Microchemical Journal
Volume 157
ISSN 0026265X
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords Cadmium pigments, Cultural heritage, Laser-induced photoluminescence, Plastic artefacts, Raman microscopy, UV–Vis-NIR diffuse reflectance spectroscopy
Subject categories Architectural conservation and restoration, Other Chemistry Topics, Inorganic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry


© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Colorants are present in trace concentration in objects made of plastic and their identification is a methodological and analytical challenge. In conservation, the identification of colorants may allow a better understanding of colorant degradation (such as color change and fading) and provide information about the historical development, production and processing of plastics. Although micro-destructive analytical protocols are well established for the analysis of colorants, in cultural heritage, where in situ methodologies are preferred and, in some cases, mandatory, new approaches are greatly needed. In this work, an in situ multi-analytical approach is used to specifically study inorganic cadmium-based pigments that were commonly used for coloring plastics during the 20th c. First introduced as vivid artists’ pigments, cadmium-based additives were used for coloring plastics because of their exceptional performance properties. Eighteen colored polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) samples, produced in the second half of the 20th c. by the company Plásticos do Sado (Portugal), were studied with a combination of optical microscopy, colorimetry, UV–Vis-NIR diffuse reflectance, laser-induced photoluminescence, vibrational (µ-Raman) and elemental (µ-EDXRF) spectroscopies. On the basis of complementary data, the chemical composition of most of the coloring agents employed in the acrylic samples were identified without any micro-sampling.

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