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A pyrolysis approach for characterizing and assessing degradation of polyurethane foam in cultural heritage objects

La Nasa, Jacopo, Biale, Greta, Ferriani, Barbara, Colombini, Maria Perla, Modugno, Francesca
Journal of analytical and applied pyrolysis 2018 v.134 pp. 562-572
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, chemical analysis, chemical composition, chromatography, crosslinking, cultural heritage, foams, mass spectrometry, moieties, plasticizers, polyols, polypropylenes, polyurethanes, pyrolysis, synthetic products, temperature
Specific analytical tools are needed to investigate the composition and degradation processes of the synthetic materials in the cultural heritage, and recent advancements in pyrolysis-based analytical techniques have great potential for the characterisation of synthetic polymers. We applied evolved gas analysis mass spectrometry (EGA-MS) and double shot pyrolysis coupled with chromatography and mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) to investigate polyurethane foam micro-samples from the Italian pop-art sculpture “Contenitoreumano n.1” (1968) by Ico Parisi (1916–1996) and Francesco Somaini (1926–2005). The chemical analysis aimed to assess the chemical composition and of the state of preservation of the PU foam by acquiring information on its thermal degradation behaviour and identifying the pyrolysis products produced at different temperatures. A preliminary ATR-FTIR analysis was also carried out. The multi-analytical approach enabled us to identify the isocyanate and polyol precursors as 2,6-toluenediisocyanate and polypropylene glycol, respectively. The plasticizers used in the production of the PU foam were also identified in the first shot of a double shot Py-GC/MS experiment. A comparison of a sample of better preserved foam with a sample of degraded foam from the surface of the object highlighted that the more degraded part of the PU foam featured an increase in the thermal degradation temperature of the soft-fragments of the PU network, related to cross-linking phenomena. Moreover, loss of plasticizers and formation of NH2 functional groups was observed in the degraded foam.