The Chemistry Secrets in a Degrading Photograph

Understanding how silver daguerreotypes corrode may help improve today's industrial materials. 

Physicist Volker Rose is looking for a reaction in the crumbling, 150-year-old face of a nameless woman. As she stares back at him from a daguerreotype, one of the earliest kinds of photographs, he’s specifically interested in the chemical reactions that have affected the image’s silver-plated surface. For Rose, peering into historical art is a way to foretell the future of today’s materials. The chemical corrosion of daguerreotypes like this one (from the Smithsonian Instituti...

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