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[BKARTS] Absorbent Polymer Has "Thirst for Knowledge"

From: ARS News Service [mailto:NewsService@xxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 6:25 AM
To: ARS News subscriber
Subject: Absorbent Polymer Has "Thirst for Knowledge"

Absorbent Polymer Has "Thirst for Knowledge"

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jan Suszkiw, (301) 504-1630, jsuszkiw@xxxxxxxxxxxx
September 22, 2003

Cupped in the palm of one's hand, Super Slurper is a nondescript
powder--until you add water. Then, starch-based polymers in Super
Slurper "drink" the water right up, transforming the powder into a gel
capable of retaining nearly 2,000 times its weight in moisture.

Now, this same thirsty disposition could make Super Slurper worth its
weight in gold to librarians and archivists. The Agricultural Research
Service and Artifex Equipment, Inc., of Penngrove, Calif., are
collaborating on tests of the polymer's ability to dry books, papers,
photographs and other materials soaked by water from flooding, leaks and
other disasters.

Kathleen Hayes, coordinator for the Technology Transfer Information
Center at ARS' National Agricultural Library (NAL), Beltsville, MD,
thought of the idea while attending a March 2002 workshop hosted by the
National Archives and Records Administration. She envisioned using Super
Slurper as a fast, new way to salvage water-damaged materials, rather
than air drying them--which is laborious and expensive--and as an
alternative to vacuum freeze-drying, a recovery process that can take
months and cause collateral damage.

Artifex president Nicholas Yeager was intrigued, and conducted
preliminary tests in which Super Slurper dried several wet books in
about 10 minutes. Air drying methods, by comparison, take weeks--and
mold growth can begin in just 48 hours.

In August, Yeager signed a cooperative agreement with the NAL to
continue testing. Besides checking for mold inhibition, his tests aim to
gauge Super Slurper's ability to minimize other types of water damage,
including wrinkled pages and swollen book bindings that take up 20
percent more shelf space.

Super Slurper, for its part, must not produce any stains of its own nor
mar an item's inks and pigments. J.L. Willett, a chemical engineer at
the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria,
Ill.--Super Slurper's "birthplace"--is on hand to technically advise
Yeager, who may opt to market the polymer commercially.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research

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