March 21, 2017
Shawnee State University and the SmartWater Foundation teamed up to create a new "traceable liquid” to dissaude looting in Syra.
Shawnee State University’s Associate Professor of Middle East History and Anthropology, Dr. Amr Al-Azm, was contacted by the SmartWater Foundation, the not for profit arm of SmartWater CSI LLC, to perform tests for SmartWater’s unique “traceable liquid” which hopes to aid as a revolutionary approach to prevent the looting and theft of some of Syria’s most treasured artifacts.
Dr. Al-Azm has been overseeing the ground-breaking initiative by performing extensive testings on SmartWater’s polymer with the help of Molly Arey, SSU student and Dr. Al-Azm’s TA and Lab Assistant. They conducted an Oddy Test, which stimulates environment conditions conducive to corrosion of materials (high temperatures and high humidity), then the material is put in to see if it will produce corrosive organic gasses or acids. The gasses are tested by observing their reactivity with three different types of metal, silver, copper and lead, which helps to determine if the substance is appropriate for use in museum displays or is in conjunction with artifact preservation. Since some gasses and acids can be potentially destructive to certain materials, it is important to discern the safety of the gasses released during the test before used on a valuable object or artifact. Similar tests have also been conducted by Florida University and Reading University, UK.
Dr. Al-Azm and Arey have also conducted a Contact Test and are in the process of performing a Microscopic Exam.
Pictured is Molly Arey, Teacher Assistant to Dr. Al-Azm, demonstrating how SmartWater's solution can be detected on objects once marked.
Dr. Al-Azm believes SmartWater’s product will play a significant role as a deterrent to the buyers and sellers who are perpetrating crimes against cultural heritage.
“Syria’s heritage is under daily assault from looting and destruction by thieves and terrorists, and I do believe that SmartWater forensics will help to safeguard Syria’s future by helping prove the origin of the looted and trafficked objects, which is a major milestone in the efforts to preserve Syria’s history,” Dr. Al-Azm said.
Due to the current success of the collaboration between SmartWater and Dr. Al-Azm, SmartWater has proposed to develop a program of testing with SSU that would assess and verify the impact of SmartWater’s water-based solution on a range of substrates.
“I think it would be great to be able to expand the project and continue working with SmartWater,” said Dr. Al-Azm. “It would also benefit the students here at Shawnee State because it would allow for the creation of internship opportunities.”
Dr. Al-Azm has also helped translate the tutorials on how to use SmartWater’s product into Arabic and recently traveled to Istanbul in January to help facilitate a field test. SmartWater’s solution will be applied to Syria’s most treasured artifacts, including mosaics from UNESCO World Heritage designated site of the Dead Cities and other historical valued items housed in the museums.
All the tests for this project have been conducted by Dr. Al-Azm and Arey and have been facilitated in the Chemistry Labs on SSU’s campus. Dr. Daniel Finnen, Associate Professor of Natural Sciences at SSU, has also contributed to the project by running a Head Space Analysis.