The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 1
Mar 1996


Brittle Paper and Plasma Treatment

Experts Meet in Delft to Consider Potential of New Treatment

The dictionary defines plasma as an "almost completely ionized gas, containing equal numbers of free electrons and positive ions... formed by heating low-pressure gases until the atoms have sufficient energy to ionize each other." Plasma has been used in the restoration of metal objects, and an article in Restauro 1/1996 reports initial results of treatment of paper, focussing on eradication of mold spores and stains. The authors suggest that it might be useful for deacidifying books as well, by using alkaline plasma (nitrogen, ammonia) and strengthening them by a polymerization process.

One of the authors of the Restauro article, Manfred Anders from Stuttgart University, was invited to meet with six other scientists in Delft on November 30, 1995, for the following purposes:

  1. To gain a better understanding of plasma treatment of fibers,
  2. To find out the state of the art of plasma treatment related to brittle paper, and
  3. To establish, if possible, a new coordinated joint research program.

Ronald van Deventer, project leader from the TNO Center for Paper and Board Research, Delft, reviewed current strengthening processes that coat the paper and concluded that they are not suitable for strengthening brittle paper. John Havermans, project manager of conservation research at the TNO Center, surveyed plasma treatments and suggested that they be used to solve the brittle paper problem. Svetlana Uspenskaya, head of the research group in the Conservation Department at BAN, St. Petersburg, described her research using plasma to decrease the water absorbency of paper. Manfred Anders described the positive and negative effects of plasma on paper.

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