Sustainable future alternatives to petroleum-based polymeric conservation materials

Yvonne Shashoua, Katja Atanasova, Claire Curran

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The research described here is the first study on the use of sustainable, plant-based biopolymers in conservation practice. Two applications of biopolymers to conservation were investigated – in commercial bioplastics as substitutes for petroleum-based plastic packaging, and in novel adhesive and coating formulations. Bio-polyethylenes, bio-polyesters and bio-cellulose-based products were evaluated against petroleum-based materials. Bio- and petroleum-based polyethylenes shared optical, chemical and thermal properties. Bamboo and sugarcane fibre containers were also chemically stable. Polyester polylactic acid (PLA) bags and containers became brittle and opaque at a relative humidity (RH) above 65%. FTIR spectroscopy and thermogravimetric analysis suggested that PLA hydrolysed to produce acids. PLA/cornstarch bags fragmented on ageing and formed a gel at high RH levels. A 5 wt% solution of adhesive prepared from soya protein was an effective and reversible adhesive for wood, paper and glass, but adhered poorly to polyethylene and poly(methyl methacrylate). Humic acid-based solutions formed cohesive films which adhered well to glass, paper and soil.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICOM-CC 18th Triennial Conference Preprints
EditorsJanet Bridgland
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherInternational Council of Museums
Publication date4 Sept 2017
Article number1610
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2017
EventICOM-CC 18th Triennial Conference: Linking Past and Future - Tivoli Congress Center , Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 4 Sept 20178 Sept 2017
Conference number: 18


ConferenceICOM-CC 18th Triennial Conference
LocationTivoli Congress Center
Internet address


  • sustainable, biopolymer, bioplastic polyethylene, polyester, soya, humic acid

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