Welcome to the laboratory LATHEMA (Laboratory of Technologies for Heritage Materials)

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Our objectives

Research topics in our laboratory are focused on the development of sustainable and eco-friendly conservation strategies, getting inspired by environmental processes occurring in nature.  

While often considered as harmful for cultural heritage, microbial processes (e.g. extracellular production of chelating agents, enzymes, polymers...) can also be exploited for its safeguarding. Indeed, there is a growing interest for green technologies that are environmentally friendly (close to ambient temperature and pressure, neutral pH), and take into account ecological aspects and also risks factors for operators.

The efficiency of bio-based passivation, stabilization and cleaning processes are currently evaluated on inorganic and organic materials through in particular the application of green gels.

Targeted substrates vary from inorganic (metals) to organic (waterlogged wood) or composite objects (painted metals) substrates and application is foreseen on archaeological objects, historical and technical objects, as well as outdoor monuments.

An original and deep background in environmental analytical chemistry and conservation sciences allow us to actually link these fields together into the successful development of new conservation approaches, such as a fungal treatment (biopatina) for protecting copper alloys or a bacterial desalination method for archaeological iron. As well, we study the bioremediation of sulfur and iron that represents a pioneering and inventive research for the long-term preservation of waterlogged wood. Recently, we initiate also green formulations to clean altered and tarnished surfaces from copper, iron and silver artworks.



Green methods for metal conservation, Keynote lecture Division of environmental and heritage chemistry,  XXVII national congress of the Italian Chemical Society (SCI), 17.09.2021

Biopatine et autres traitements de conservation verte, 10e Journées professionnelles de la conservation-restauration des biens culturels Conservation-restauration et environnement: Adaptons nos pratiques!, 26.03.2021

Radio interview on RTS La 1ère, CQFD program, Bacteria to preserve shipwrecks, 16.11.2020


MICMAC - article (in French):  Les bactéries se mouillent pour sauver des épaves, in En direct

Restoration intervention on the Universal Postal Union monument: First time ever on such a large area (over 100 m2)! The Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics has chosen to apply biopatina, an ecological and sustainable treatment using a specific fungal strain. Click here to learn more (in French)

Oral presentation by Sarah James at Virtual Eurocorr 2020 Conference

Innovative Approaches towards a Green and Sustainable Metal Conservation, in Chimia 74 (2020) 611


Edith Joseph interviewed (in French) on the swiss radio La 1ere, Avis d'Experts

Interview on the conservation and preservation of copper artefacts and archaeological wood objects thanks to microorganisms, with Edith Joseph and Magdalena Albelda Berenguer, journal ASBMBToday

Archaeology : bacteria against rust
A team of Swiss chemists and microbiologists have shown that a species of anaerobic bacterium can inhibit corrosion on archeological artifacts made of iron. The research is published March 10 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Contact : Pr Edith Joseph, Laboratory of Technologies for Heritage Materials, +41 32 718 22 35
Pr Pilar Junier, Laboratory of Microbiology, +41 32 718 22 44
To know more : Bibliography:Comensoli L, Maillard J, Albini M, Sandoz F, Junier P, Joseph E. 2017
Use of Bacteria to Stabilize Archaeological Iron.
Appl Environ Microbiol 83: e03478-16.
French communiqué