SEAHA Centre for Doctoral Training


Mark Kearney

PhD student, University College London

Project Title 

From Samples to Complex Objects: Detecting Material Degradation in Plastic Artworks (Nanorestart)

Background & Summary of Project

Research into the decay of modern materials found in heritage environments is a rapidly growing area within heritage science. This is due to the rapid and often catastrophic decay suffered by many commonly found polymers. Consequently, the need for accurate and reliable conservation treatments or monitoring programs are much needed. This project will exploit the information gained from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) naturally emitted from polymers with the aim to detect and monitor the decay of 3D artworks on open display or housed in storage environments. Laboratory work (both at UCL and Arkema) will focus on developing an experimental method using solid-phase micro extraction gas chromatography mass spectrometry (SPME-GCMS); this methodology will then be implemented in the real-world heritage environment of the project’s heritage partner Tate.


SEAHA roles 

  • Student Board Chair Sept 2016 - April 2018


Kearney, Mark & Parkin, Ivan & Townsend, Joyce & Hidalgo, Manuel & Curran, Katherine. (2018). ' Characterisation of VOCs Surrounding Naum Gabo’s Construction in Space ‘Two Cones ’, (Tate) by in situ SPME GC-MS Monitoring. Studies in Conservation. 63. 369-371. 

Konstantina Konstantinidou, Stanislav Strekopytov, Emma Humphreys-Williams & Mark Kearney (2017) Identification of cellulose nitrate X-ray film for the purpose of conservation: Organic elemental analysis, Studies in Conservation, 62:1, 24-32.

M.Kearney, J.H.Townsend, I. P.Parkin, M.Hidalgo, K.Curran (2020). Factors affecting the practicality of solid-phase microextraction VOC analysis of artworks featuring polymeric materials in open environments. Microchemical Journal. Vol. 155, 104711

Simoní Da Ros, Abil E. Aliev, Isabella del Gaudio, Rose King, Anna Pokorska, Mark Kearney, Katherine Curran, Characterising plasticised cellulose acetate-based historic artefacts by NMR spectroscopy: a new approach for quantifying the degree of substitution and diethyl phthalate contents, Polymer Degradation and Stability (2020)