It is known that oil paintings containing zinc white are subject to rapid degradation. This is caused by the interaction between the active groups of binder and the metal ions of the pigment, which gives rise to the formation of new zinc complexes (metal soaps). Ongoing studies on zinc white paints have been limited to the chemical mechanisms that lead to the formation of zinc complexes. On the contrary, little is known of the photo-physical changes induced in the zinc oxide crystal structure following this interaction. Time-resolved photoluminescence spectroscopy has been applied to follow modifications in the luminescent zinc white pigment when mixed with binder. Significant changes in trap state photoluminescence emissions have been detected: the enhancement of a blue emission combined with a change of the decay kinetic of the well-known green emission. Complementary data from molecular analysis of paints using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy confirms the formation of zinc carboxylates and corroborates the mechanism for zinc complexes formation. We support the hypothesis that zinc ions migrate into binder creating novel vacancies, affecting the photoluminescence intensity and lifetime properties of zinc oxide. Here, we further demonstrate the advantages of a time-resolved photoluminescence approach for studying defects in semiconductor pigments.
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