If you work with or sell silver jewelry, chances are you rely on anti-tarnish strips. One company that produces these strips is Intercept TechnologyTM. Their strips, called Tarnish Tamer, are 100% recyclable material helps prevent oxidation in jewelers’ cases, in consumer packaging and in your customers’ jewelry boxes.
What you may not know is that this same eco-friendly technology had a major role in keeping the Statue of Liberty looking her best as she shines brightly over New York Harbor.
John Franey, a Bell Labs researcher, spent his time working to save his company’s telecom equipment from atmospheric contamination and corrosion by retarding oxidation in metals. Because of the expertise he developed through his corrosion research, Franey was invited to join the team giving Lady Liberty a makeover in time for her centennial celebration.
In the decades since France presented the statue, formally named “Liberty Enlightening the World” (La Liberté Éclairant le Monde, in French) to the fledgling United States, the pure copper sheathing had developed a protective green patina—the result of copper corrosion.
The restoration task force needed to replace the sections of copper than had been completely eaten through. Easy enough, but because the color of the new copper wouldn’t match the patina of the remaining century-old sheathing, the statue would look as if she were wearing a patchwork dress.
While researching the problem, Franey made a fluke—but vitally important—discovery: The patina on the roof of his company’s headquarters building looked very similar to that of the Statue of Liberty.
He took samples from both the statue and the roof. Since they had exactly the same formation of crystals on their surfaces, Franey had a hunch he could speed up the new copper’s patination by seeding the crystals from the roof onto the repaired sections of the statue.
He removed patina from the roof, suspended it in a liquid solution that contained binders that helped the crystals grow and, when the resulting solution was sprayed on, would attach to the new metal. Eh, voilà!, within three months, Lady Liberty had lost the patchwork look and once again wore the lovely single shade of “aged” patina we know and love!
Then, in a brilliant bit of reverse engineering, Franey took the opposite approach and applied his discovery to solve his original problem—that of slowing down metals’ aging process. Using what he had learned about seeding crystal structures, he invented a material that acted as a corrosion inhibitor.
Today, this technology protects metal products of all kinds—from jewelry to car parts—and does it while being 100% recyclable and friendly to the environment.