A TEAM of scientists from some of Britain's finest universities could hold the key to stopping many of the UK's best loved buildings from crumbling.
Researchers from Queens University Belfast, City University London and Oxford University have begun a project to help protect limestone buildings against decay caused by pollution and the weather.
The project could reduce the amount of maintenance work required on buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral in London.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the project aims to work out why limestone decay appears so random. It will also help to make sure that well intentioned conservation does not accelerate a building's deterioration.
The scientists will develop optical sensors to monitor how limestone is affected by traffic pollution, road salt, temperature and humidity.
Principal investigator Dr Heather Giles said: 'This is the first time electronic and other engineering expertise have been applied to the problem of rapid limestone decay.'