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Nano-conservation and underwater robots – helping preserve the past

  • Europe’s cultural heritage extends underwater, with thousands of shipwrecks and ruined human settlements at the bottom of the sea. Many of these sites are unreachable by divers and so the EU-funded project ARROWS is on a quest to preserve them. The researchers are combining robots with sophisticated cameras to create low-cost mini-submarines that can autonomously scan vast areas of seafloor without human intervention. Image courtesy of ARROWS
  • Once a point of interest is detected, a swarm of other submarines can go and further analyse the site, taking photos and videos. The u-CAT is the most nimble robot of the ARROWS fleet, and is designed to take video and images from the interior of shipwrecks. That allows archaeologists to gather data cheaply and in a short amount of time. The u-CAT has already had a successful test survey on the Cala Minnola site off the coast of Levanzo, Italy, where it was able to operate even in very strong currents. The
  • One concern for conservationists is how climate change could damage historical buildings and increase their energy demand. The EU-funded project Climate for Culture is the first project to combine building simulation models with precise climate change scenarios to investigate how changing temperatures, rising sea levels, and other factors, could affect the microclimate around and in heritage sites. They have already made recommendations for 130 locations, including the Linderhof Palace in Germany, where con
  • Engineering advancements mean that newly constructed buildings are much more eco-friendly than their aging counterparts. But according to the EU-funded project 3ENCULT, just because a building is old does not mean it cannot be green. They are designing energy-efficient retrofit techniques for historic buildings such as the Palazzo d'Accursio in Italy, where they have already installed an environmentally friendly lighting system. It not only uses less energy without harming the frescos with ultraviolet rays,
  • The EU-funded NANOMATCH project is using nanotechnology to develop products that can increase the strength of stone and stone-like materials, reduce acidity in wood, and protect glass. The group has tested samples at four historic sites across Europe, including on a damaged mural at the Stavropoleos Monastery in Bucharest, and plans to get its new products onto the market in the near future. Image courtesy of NANOMATCH

Horizon explores the science behind Europe’s cultural heritage.