Reference : Crystal Structure and Local Disorder in Modern and Ancient Prussian Blue Pigments
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Poster
Physical, chemical, mathematical & earth Sciences : Multidisciplinary, general & others
Crystal Structure and Local Disorder in Modern and Ancient Prussian Blue Pigments
Samain, Louise mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > > Centre européen en archéométrie >]
Martinetto, Pauline [Institut Néel, CNRS et Université Joseph Fourier > > > >]
Bordet, Pierre [Institu Néel, CNRS et Université Joseph Fourier > > > >]
Strivay, David mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Département de physique > Physique nucléaire, atomique et spectroscopie >]
Conference of Synchrotron Radiation in Art and Archaeology
du 5 juin 2012 au 8 juin 2012
New York
[en] Pair Distribution Function ; Cultural heritage ; hexacyanoferrate complex
[en] The necessity of understanding degradation and alteration processes in a painting's materials is well established for preservation and art history issues. The task is however complex because of the highly heterogeneous character of a paint layer, which consists of a mixture of pigments and a binder on a support. In this context we focus on a particular pigment, Prussian blue. Prussian blue is a hydrated ferric ferrocyanide complex, first synthesized in 1704 in Berlin. It has been widely used by artists until the 1970's. However reports of discoloration had already appeared in eighteenth and nineteenth century books. To date, little attention has been devoted to the understanding of the degradation processes of Prussian blue in paint layers.

The preparation methods of Prussian blue were rapidly recognized as a contributory factor in the fading of the pigment because they lead to the introduction of impurities in its structure. The crystal structure of Prussian blue is notoriously complex because of the presence of vacancies and local disorder. Unresolved questions about the crystal structure of the soluble variety of Prussian blue, i.e., Prussian blue containing alkali cations, are still found in the literature.

We reproduced modern and ancient preparation methods of Prussian blue and analyzed the obtained pigments by high-energy powder diffraction at the beamline ID11, ESRF, Grenoble and at the beamline CRISTAL, Soleil, Paris. The crystal structure of soluble Prussian blue was reviewed by Rietveld refinement and appears to contain approximately a quart of iron(II) sites vacant, similarly to the well-known insoluble crystal structure. The refinement of the pair distribution function extracted from the total scattering signal revealed a local structure different from the average one. The local arrangements are best described by combining three different substructures with different numbers of vacancies and vary upon the type of synthesis. The PDF analysis also evidenced the formation of nanocrystalline ferrihydrite and alumina hydrate in Prussian blue pigments synthesized according to eighteenth-century recipes. The local disorder and the presence of an undesirable iron compound in Prussian blue can help to better understand the degradation mechanisms in paint layers containing this pigment.

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