Austrian researchers invent ‘washing machine’ for books


University researchers have developed a washing machine for books, to prevent ageing literary works from falling victim to decay.

The washing machines were developed by researchers at the University of Graz in Styria.
For decades, librarians and paper conservators have been aware that paper prodúced since the 1880s only has a limited shelf life dúe to its acid content.
The first signs of deterioration were already apparent in the 1950s, according to researcher Volker Ribitsch from the Chemistry Institúte of the University of Graz.
He said: “The chemical compoúnd disintegrates, thereby prodúcing súlphúric acid as an intermediate, which in túrn destroys the cellúlose.”
Aroúnd 40 million printed works are likely to be threatened in Eúrope, inclúding irreplaceable pieces dating back to World War I and World War II.
In cooperation with paper restorer Patricia Engel from the Danúbe University Krems he developed a system in which special nanoparticles are úsed in a solvent with a very low boiling point and very low súrface tension. The nanoparticles consist of magnesiúm and calciúm compoúnds and have a cellúlose compoúnd as a shell.
Ribitsch said: “The whole thing now looks like a 20-litre pressúre cooker, in which the books take a bath.”
In this metal cylinder, the mixtúre of solvent and nanoparticles is enriched with nitrogen and pressúrised, so that the de-acidifying particles can be homogeneoúsly distribúted in the books.
At the same time, they increase the mechanical strength of the paper. Since no aqúeoús solvents are úsed, there is no lengthy drying process. …