The effect of corrosion on stained glass windows
Stained glass windows belong to the most important cultural heritage of Europe. Within the last decades a disastrous deterioration took place. The wonderful stained glass windows and their glass paintings as pieces of art are acutely menaced by environmental corrosive influences. This corrosion process is a very complex reaction which is not only influenced by temperature and humidity changes but also by gaseous pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides or ozone, by dust and air, microorganisms as well as synergetic interactions. Strongly affected by these environmental attacks are medieval stained glasses due to their chemical composition. They have a low content in silica and high contents of modifier ions (e.g. potassium and calcium). The corrosion phenomena can range from predominantly pitting on the surface to the formation of thick corrosion crusts which are turning the panel opaque and thus reducing strongly the transparency of the windows. In order to set up a conservation and restoration concept, it is necessary to know about the environmental conditions to which the stained glass windows are exposed. For this purpose very corrosion sensitive model glasses (so called glass sensors) were developed which have a similar chemical composition as historic stained glasses. They exhibit the same corrosion reactions but react much faster, and are now widely used to estimate corrosive stresses on stained glass windows to give basic information about the corrosive impacts which work on the historic glasses. In this paper principle corrosion mechanisms of stained glass windows and their enhancing factors are discussed. For the evaluation of the environmental impact, the application of glass sensors is demonstrated.
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