UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


Heritage Science Laboratory

The work of staff and students at UCL ISH is supported by a world-class research and teaching facility. The state-of-the-art Heritage Science Laboratory at 29 Gordon Street, which opened in 2010, offers  100m2 of lab space for studying historic objects and environments. The laboratory specialises in portable and transportable equipment, so that it can be used in real heritage environments. There are also facilities for GC/MS, artificial degradation experiments, spectroscopic analysis, environmental monitoring, and much more.

Furthermore, the lab hosts the unique Hyperspectral Imaging setup for objects from 1 cm2 to entire building facades. The lab also houses an archive of reference historic sample materials, including European, Islamic and Chinese paper, modern and contemporary heritage objects and historic photographs, invaluable sources of study materials for collaborative, doctoral and Masters projects.

Material characterisation

UCL ISH use infrared (IR) and near infrared (NIR) spectrometry, colourimetry for measurements of colour change, and profilometry for measurements of surface roughness. Below is a list of instruments the institute uses:

  • Bruker Alpha FTIR (ATR, DRIFT and transmission) Spectrometer
  • PHAZIR handheld NIR Spectrometer
  • Labspec 5000 fibre-optics based NIR Spectrometer
  • Innowep Traceit Optical Profilometer
  • X-Rite 530 Colourimeter

Environmental characterisation

UCL ISH capabilities include measurements of various traffic and indoor generated pollutants, and emissions from materials using a bench top gas chromatograph and a portable mass spectrometer. The insitute can also undertake long-term environmental monitoring. The following equipment is available:

  • Perkin Elmer Clarus 500 gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer with a Gerstel automated headspace sampler and an Automated Thermal Desorption unit
  • ppbRAE 3000 total-VOC Meter
  • KORE MS-200 Portable Mass Spectrometer
  • HOBO dataloggers T/RH/light
  • Teledyne API Sulfur Dioxide M100 meter and logger
  • Teledyne API Ozone M400 meter and logger
  • Teledyne API Nitrogen Oxide M200 meter and logger
  • PPM Technology Formaldemeter
  • Gradko DC1100 particle monitors (1.0 & 5.0 and 0.5 & 2.5 um)
  • SKC 5-pump active air sampling kit (particles and pollutants)
  • Senceive FLATMESH Wireless sensor networks with the following sensing capabilities: temperature, relative humidity, UV light, visible light, RGB light, formaldehyde, total volatile organic compounds, dust. This network was developed in the Heritage Intelligence project.

Material degradation research

The institute has a number of reactors available for studies in well-defined environmental conditions (T, RH, pollutant concentration) and the following equipment for analysis:

  • VICI Metronics Dynacalibrator 150 Calibrated air pollutant source
  • Instruquest, V-Gen Model 1 Calibrated Air humidifier
  • Ageing chambers
  • Fume hood
  • Viscometry measurement setup
  • Metrohm pH-meter
  • Analytical balance

Reference sample archive

Collections of sacrificial historic materials are stored in controlled conditions (4 oC) for future research:

  • Plastic (collection of several 100, from 19th century historic to modern plastics)
  • Parchment (collection of ~50, 16th - 20th century)
  • Paper (collection of several 100, including the SurveNIR historic paper reference collection of ~1000 well-characterised samples)
  • Iron gall ink (well-characterised collection of ~80 samples of 19th and 20th century inks)
  • Colour photographs (collection of ~2000, ~100 well characterised samples)

Under certain conditions, the collections may be made available for research purposes, please enquire.