Skip to content

Treating stone to save Maltese Culture

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Malta has three UNESCO world heritage sites which need constant conservation. Generally, it is better to preserve the original building material than replace it. The conservation method called consolidation can glue deteriorating stone material to the underlying healthy stone maintaining it, but few consolidants have been tested on local Globigerina limestone. Sophie Briffa (supervised by Daniel Vella) tested a new set of consolidants which are stronger than other compounds but affected the colour of the stone. She applied five different conditions on the stone. The first three were novel treatments. They were based on a hybrid silane (tetraethylorthosilicate (TEOS) and 3-(glycidoxypropyl)trimethoxysilane (GPTMS)) but one had nanoparticles, one had modified nanoparticles, and the other lacked them. The fourth was a simple laboratory-prepared TEOS silane. The fifth was untreated limestone samples for comparison.

The treatments successfully penetrated the stone’s surface. Microscopy coupled with other techniques including mercury intrusion porosimetry carried out in Cadiz, Spain, confirmed this infiltration and the stone’s physical qualities: strength, drilling resistance, and so on. Half of the treated stones underwent accelerated weathering. The consolidants with nanoparticles or modified nanoparticles were stronger than the other treatments. They also maintained the original surface colour and improved the stones’ ability to absorb water. On the other hand, they were less resistant to salt crystallisation that can damage the stone making it brittle.
The best consolidant for Maltese stone has not yet been found. Ideally, it should have a good penetration and good weathering properties that preserve the stone’s appearance. It should allow ‘breathability’ and be reversible. Current stone consolidation techniques are irreversible since they permanently introduce new material into the stone. These are only acceptable since consolidation is a last attempt to save the stone before complete replacement.

French writer Victor Hugo summed up the importance of this research when he said, ‘Whatever may be the future of architecture, in whatever manner our young architects may one day solve the question of their art, let us, while waiting for new monuments, preserve the ancient monuments. Let us… inspire the nation with a love for national architecture’.

This research was performed as part of an M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering. The research was funded by the Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarship (Malta).

More to Explore

Adrift at Sea: Laws, Morals, and Policies in Malta’s Search and Rescue Region

Since 2016, EU member states have scaled down search and rescue operations that save lives at sea and replaced them with policies intended to reduce the number of migrant arrivals to Europe. These policies of non-assistance and forced returns to Libya render the central Mediterranean one of the world’s deadliest border spaces and force asylum seekers back to a war zone where inhuman and degrading treatment is well-documented. A growing network of civil society organisations continues to challenge these policies in the courts, on the streets, and at sea. This article, the second in a two-part series on migration, is based in part on interviews conducted with Dr Omar Grech, Senior Lecturer in International Law at the University of Malta (UM), Dr Derek Lutterbeck, Deputy Director at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies at UM, and Dr Felicity Attard, expert in International and Maritime Security Law at the Faculty of Laws at UM.

Concentration Camps in Libya

Following the NATO-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya descended into a decade of disunity and violence resulting in incalculable suffering and loss of life. Today, much of the country remains a war zone, and migrants in EU-sponsored Libyan detention facilities continue to suffer well-documented, gross human rights violations. This article, the first in a two-part series on migration, is based in part on interviews conducted with Dr Omar Grech, Senior Lecturer in International Law at the University of Malta (UM); Dr Derek Lutterbeck, Deputy Director at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies at UM; and Dr Felicity Attard, expert in International and Maritime Security Law at the Faculty of Laws at UM. 

No comment yet, add your voice below!


Add a Comment