The crystallization pressure of soluble salts and the conservation of built cultural heritage: previous research and present challenges

Francesco Caruso (1981) is Associate Professor in Conservation and Conservation Science at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History (IAKH) of the University of Oslo since September 2016.

Why are some monuments of our built heritage literally crumbling? What is one of the causes of the shaping of the landscape on Earth and Mars? What is the driving force that make some soluble salts so destructive? Answers to these (and related) questions are of paramount importance in the fields of conservation science, geomorphology, geotechnical engineering, and concrete materials science. Results from previous research work (mainly carried out at ETH Zürich) of two topics will be here reviewed and discussed: the modern reproduction of the pioneering experiment by Correns and Steinborn on the crystallization pressure of potassium alum under constant load and the controlled crystallization damage from sodium sulfate in porous limestone. The experimental advances, the involved non-ideal thermodynamics and chemomechanics will be among the treated aspects of this presentation.



  • From 2011 to 2016, Francesco worked as Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the group of Prof. Dr. Robert J. Flatt at ETH Zürich. During his postdoc, Francesco focused on the physico-chemical aspects of soluble salts crystallization and weathering problems of swelling clay-bearing sandstones.
  • From 2007 to 2011, Francesco worked in the group of Prof. Eugenio Caponetti at the University of Palermo. In 2011, he obtained a Ph.D. in Chemical Sciences by defending a dissertation titled: “Characterization of the varnishes from historical musical instruments”. During his Ph.D., he also worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (2009, under the supervision of Dr. Lucia Burgio) and at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels (2010, under the supervision of Dr. Steven Saverwyns and Dr. Marina van Bos).
  • From 2006 to 2007, Francesco worked at the Institute for the Study of Nanostructured Materials of the Italian National Research Council (ISMN-CNR, under the guidance of Dr. Maria Pia Casaletto) in Palermo in the framework of the ATENA project, “Application of advanced analytical techniques for the conservation of archaeological metallic and ceramic artifacts and the recovering of ancient manufacturing techniques for the evaluation of the efficacy of new chemicals as inhibiting agents in the conservation and preservation of metallic objects”.
  • In 2005, Francesco obtained his M.Sc. cum laude in Chemistry (main advisor: Prof. Dr. Santino Orecchio) from the University of Palermo by defending a thesis titled: “Characterization of the varnish and the glue of the Panormus double bass by Vincenzo Trusiano”.
  • Francesco is author and co-author of 28 papers on international and national peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings.



Published Mar. 6, 2018 2:17 PM - Last modified Nov. 6, 2019 7:32 PM