An ethylene-methacrylic acid copolymer, formulated by BASF as a waterborne suspension of its alkylammonium salt and used, among other applications, in art conservation as a temporary protective coating was characterized using Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy aided by modulated differential scanning calorimetry (MDSC) and ellipsometry. The thermal conversion of thin copolymer films from the freshly applied state, where carboxylic acid and carboxylate ion functional groups co-exist, to a purely acidic working state was spectroscopically followed. Transmission mid-infrared data of the working state showed a 1 : 12 ratio of methacrylic acid towards ethylene units. The glass transition temperature (<i>T</i><sub>g</sub>) in the same state was found at 45 °C. Copolymer films spin-coated on mechanically polished bronze and iron coupons were characterized with transflection infrared spectroscopy and compared to corresponding transmission mid-infrared spectra of copolymer films spin-coated on silicon wafers. In the case of bronze coupons, evidence for interaction of the carboxylate ion with the copper substrate was obtained. The chemical structure and the thermal behavior of the coating, as well as some implications on its protective capability towards iron and copper alloys, is discussed as this material has received considerable attention in the field of metal conservation and coatings.
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