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Old 29th June 2014, 02:54 PM   #1
Matchlock's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Red face TURNING RUST BACK INTO IRON Since 1985 - the PLASMA Method

Hi all,

I decided to refresh our knowlegde of a conservatory method still as sensational and important as it proved to be revolutionary at the time of its invention three decades ago: the Plasma method.
In 1985 - and with a sudden blow, like a bolt out of the blue - , it literally made possible the unthinkable and has been amended ever since.

I still remember that cold December morning, sitting at my desk in my spacious apartment located in the center of the beautiful Roman and Medieval City core of Regensburg, Bavaria, just 400 meters away from the Gothic cathedral - and getting startled by a headline in the reputed German quality paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Just the opposite of 'yellow press', you know...

Please see top attachments, and sorry for not being able to help the fact that the article is in German

The following information of 1985 I copied from:,d.d2k

Researcher Finds Way To Turn Rust Back Into Iron

October 19, 1986|By John A. Callcott , United Press International
GRANDSON, SWITZERLAND — Turning rust back to iron is something scientists said could never be done. Impossible, they said, like the dream of ancient alchemists of turning metal into gold.

But an Englishman named Ian Ashdown thought otherwise.

''I thought that if iron gets rusty, why couldn't the process be reversed?'' he said. ''I was right.''

Now patents are pending on a corrosion-reversal apparatus likely to revolutionize the worlds of museum restoration and archeology when it goes into production next year.

Possible industrial applications may also mean rust-to-riches for Ashdown and the few who believed in him despite the scientific skeptics.

Ashdown's research and subsequent refinement of the rust-to-iron process was based on what is known as plasma chemistry, which removes corrosion without destructive mechanical and chemical scraping.

A corroded object is placed in a vacuum and electrically bombarded with hydrogen molecules, which react with the ferrous oxide, or rust. After several hours most of the rust converts to hard iron -- and the object is back to its original shape and size.

There is the same reaction but even better results with silver artifacts, because they return to their original silver color while iron remains dark.

''Our standard apparatus going into production next year is about the same size as a steamer trunk,'' says Eugene Heer, director of the Swiss Institute of Arms and Armor, where Ashdown did his research.

''Obviously, that limits the size of the object being restored. But we have plans for equipment large enough to handle much larger items such as cannons from the Mary Rose, the Tudor ship recently dredged up in England.''

So what about a rusty automobile?

''We couldn't give you a new car back,'' Heer laughs. ''But we certainly could make it safe if our equipment were big enough.''

Theoretically, a one-ton pile of rust could be turned into half a ton of iron.

''At the beginning, though, we are concentrating on archeological applications. Any industrial use is something for the future,'' Heer says.

One possibility is a mobile restoration unit that could be taken to an archeological excavation.

''That would protect an artifact from additional damage during transport because very often, a buried object erodes quickly when taken out of the ground and countless artifacts are simply rotting away in museum basements.'' Ashdown and Heer say the corrosion-reversal technique guarantees preservation and protection of any object for 50 years and they hope for 100 years -- against just three to five years by standard restoration methods.

Their process is also faster. Plasma-chemistry rust restoration takes 10 to 40 hours depending on the size of the artifact.

''By contrast, it can take months to remove a hard crust from something like a long-buried belt buckle,'' Heer says.

Eugène Heer had founded, and at that time was running, the museum and research center of historic weaponry at Schloss Grandson, Switzerland.

Tragically, he committed suicide shortly after.
I will tell the sad story soon, as well as the stories of other researchers and museum curators concerned with historic weaponry.
An important part of my own story included.

I have always felt that, in order to be able and both comprehensively and righteously value any person's ouput in general, and especially any lifetime research work or academic career, you have to know as many facts as possible about the personality, and the fate, of
the human being behind it all. The two are inseparable.

Of course this means telling the truth.

Pontius Pilate asked back, 'WHAT IS TRUTH?'
Hardly anybody is aware that John wrote a great song on that subject in the 1960's. He only recorded it once; it turned out to be a bit too much of telling the truth in the Sixties.

I have always found proven the definition provided by Jesus Christ:
'The Truth shall make you FREE!'
So this is why I strive to tell the bare truth - no matter how hard it was. I take full responsibilty for what I do. Just because I could never lie to myself.
All I am is a human being. And failable.

Although Jean-Marc S. used to call me 'Super Michael' ...

Btw, are you there, Jean-Marc?
Just a few weeks after the two of us had been in touch last - all of a sudden and right on getting out of bed in that morning of 29 September 2012 - , I completely lost my balance. I tumbled over and fell on the stony floor of my apartment with full force.
Half an hour later, the emergency doctor told me that an amount of what must have been one and-a-half liters of blood had shot out of my intestines. Within seconds I found myself lying in the midst of a huge red pool.
Little did I know that that was to be just the beginning of a horror trip spending about 18 months in hospitals, and uninterruptedly for one year.
Months later, and still under intensive care, I got told that my neighbors had cleaned up what I left in my apartment.

It was my great personal friend Nando, who exactly defined in one word, and on the forum, what the outcome of all that actually meant to me:

hospitalization ...
Thank you so much, Nando, for not stopping to care! And thanks to you and Jim for ringing me up at the University Clinic of Regensburg while I had to undergo (and survive) 23 surgeries of my bowels - with literally almost nothing left of my guts.

I still have guts, though!

I'm back again.

Thanks for listening and reading.
Best as ever,
Michael Trömner

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Last edited by Matchlock : 29th June 2014 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 8th July 2014, 06:12 PM   #2
E Farrell
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 22

Whilst an extremely interesting method with great potential, hydrogen plasma reduction remains a rarely-used method in artefact conservation. From the initial hypothesis in the 80s this was largely a limitation of size; the plasma reduction chambers accessible to conservators are few in number and generally quite small.

From 2002 the treatment has fallen out of favour somewhat for much the same reason as other heated reduction methods: it changes the metallography- the crystalline microstructure- of the treated object. In practice, this means that we lose information about the original type of steel, quenching, manufacturing methods, etc. which might otherwise have been accessible. Swiss National Museum revised their guidelines to fit in 2002, reducing operating temperature and total time. The revised guidelines prevent such damage, but make complete removal of chlorides and subsequent iron reduction all but impossible. It is still beneficial - it makes additional treatment easier and more effective in some cases - but it is not the easy cure which was hoped for initially, at least nor for archaeological objects.

Basically the theory remains sound, but there were unforeseen problems in implementation with iron. The Swiss and the Danes are still working on applications for iron, but I do not know if anyone else is. As far as I know it is still very effective - albeit rare due to cost/availability - for silver objects though.

A few good resources if you have interest (mostly English, one French):

Patscheider, J. and Veprek, S. (1986) Application of Low-Pressure Hydrogen Plasma to the Conservation of Ancient Iron Artifacts, Studies in Conservation Vol 31, No. 1 pp29-37. International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Wheatcroft, A. (ed) (1992) Science for Conservators Volume 2: Cleaning. 2nd Ed. New York, Routledge.

Dussère, F. (1997) Peut-on Concevoir le Plasma Comme un Traitement de Masse? In Macleod, I.D., Pennec, S.L. and Robbiola, L. (ed): Metal 95. London, James & James (Science Publishers) ltd, pp 138-146.

Schmidt-Ott, K. and Boissonnas, V. (2002) Low-Pressure Hydrogen Plasma: An Assessment of its Application on Archaeological Iron, Studies in Conservation Vol 47, No. 2 pp81-87. International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.
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