Tracing poly(Vinyl acetate) emulsions by infrared and raman spectroscopies: Identification of spectral markers

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Vinyl emulsions started to be used by artists in paintings at least since the early 1960s, being now present in several artworks worldwide. However, different vinyl formulations can result in distinct behaviours over time, and if some artworks are currently showing a good condition, others already show damages due to the use of compositions more susceptible to degradation. For this reason, it is fundamental to identify the main components in the vinyl acetate-based (VAc-based) emulsion. This work focuses on the molecular study of VAc-based emulsions by infrared and Raman spectroscopies. It aims at deepening the knowledge on the variability of the composite formulation and on the identification of characteristic bands and spectral profiles (identified as spectral markers) for both polymer and additives. To this end, a broad set of vinyl emulsions was gathered, including reference materials, historical commercial brands in use by Portuguese artists, and commercial brands collected from industrial companies. The entire set includes vinyl homopolymers produced for the purpose of the study and known formulations of vinyl homopolymers and copolymers, with and without plasticisers, according to technical data sheets and previous studies. Furthermore, unknown formulations have been included to validate the usefulness of the identified spectral markers. This set has been studied in the form of solid films deposited in glass slides by infrared spectroscopy in attenuated total reflection mode (ATR-FTIR) and micro-Raman spectroscopy (µ-Raman), both conducted in situ. As conclusions, the combined use of ATR-FTIR and µ-Raman proved to be very useful as different spectral markers were detected by each technique, confirming their complementarity. Besides the clear identification of vinyl acetate-based emulsions by both techniques, it was also possible to suggest spectral markers for the copolymerisation of vinyl acetate with vinyl versatate by µ-Raman, the stabilisation of the emulsion with poly(vinyl alcohol) by ATR-FTIR, and the addition of phthalates or benzoates plasticisers by both ATR-FTIR and µ-Raman.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3609
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Aqueous vinyl emulsions
  • Infrared spectroscopy
  • Plastic paints formulations
  • Poly(vinyl acetate)
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Spectral markers


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