Interdisciplenary research and development projects are part of the APRL mandate. Work at the Texas A&M Nuclear Science Center is no exception. With the aid of nuclear science researchers, APRL staff have conducted a number of studies on radiation-assisted Passivation Polymer conservation.
Conservators at APRL and CLR have used low-molecular weight silicone oils successfully to conserve a numer of materials, including waterlogged wood, leather, botanical remains, faunal samples and glass objects. These siliecone-oil-treated objects retain important diagnostic features and are highly dimensionally stable. Unfortunately though, low-weight silicone oils do not provide as much tensile strength as higher-weight oils. Past experiments by Arthur Charlesby have noted that tensile strength can be improved by including additional fillers like carbon black or silica powder, and then irradiating the sample.
Using gamma radiation to cure the silicone oils, rather than the usual chemical process allows for a much more precise control over the curing process. The polymerization process is also significantly quicker when subjected to gamma radiation.
Work with the Nuclear Science Centre is ongoing.
For more information, see "Flash Polymerization of Silicone Oils Using Gamma Radiation for Conserving Waterlogged Wood." Master of Science Thesis - Nuclear Engineering by Richmond Paul Gidden, Texas A&M University, 1996.