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New protocols and diagnostic techniques for decayed materials in ancient buildings

Structural and Surface Diagnostic

University of Bologna Team Leader: Franzoni Elisa - Assistant Prof. - Dep. of Chemical, Mining and Environmental Engineering.

University of Bologna Research Group: Franco Sandrolini, Elisa Franzoni, Simone Bandini, Barbara Pigino, Enrico Sassoni, Luca Baldazzi, technicians of Dep. of Chemical, Mining and Environmental Engineering.

Partner/Collaborations: Dep. of Chemical, Mining and Environmental Engineering (University of Bologna), Carpi Municipality, Soprintendenza per i beni architettonici e per il paesaggio per le province di Brescia, Cremona e Mantova.

Context and objectives


In architectural restoration works on cultural heritage, no operation (cleaning, consolidation, etc.) can be properly performed without a suitable preliminary diagnostic investigation about the materials’ nature and decay processes and products. Yet, diagnostics is still regarded as marginal by the many professional committed in restoration and is performed with casualness. As a consequence, approximate and unsatisfactory restoration works are often carried out and, in the worst cases, further damage are caused to architectural heritage.


In order to enhance the use of diagnostics in restoration, "restoration-driven" diagnostic protocols and diagnostic techniques are needed, in order to actually enhance the use of compatible materials and techniques in restoration.

Methodologies and equipment

Laboratory and on-site tests and analyses for the identification of microstructure, nature and properties of sound and decayed materials (mercury intrusion porosimetry, XRD, SEM and EDS, thermal analyses TGA and DSC, ion chromatography, grain size distribution determination, mechanical tests, chemical analysis, etc.).


  • Cavallerizza courtyard of the Ducal Palace in Mantua, Italy (XVI cent., figures 5-6 - gallery): development of a new diagnostic procedure for the characterisation of ancient plasters and mortars (Mater Charact, accettato, in stampa) and subsequent characterization of the rustication plasters by Giulio Romano in terms of formulation and decay causes, as a contribution to a fully consistent restoration.
  • Art Nouveau and liberty buildings in Italy and Portugal (Villino Girasoli in Bologna [fig. 4 - gallery], Villa San Donino in Modena, Casa Major Pessoa in Aveiro, Portogallo): identification of the nature and technology of the materials used in the façade decorations, aimed to the formulation of compatible restoration materials.