Sustainable future alternatives to petroleum-based polymeric conservation materials

Yvonne Shashoua, Katja Jankova Atanasova, Claire Curran

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


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, Copenhagen, 4–8 September 2017,
EditorsJ. Bridgland
Number of pages9
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherInternational Council of Museums
Publication date2017
Article number1610
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event18th Triennial Conference - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 4 Sep 20178 Sep 2017


Conference18th Triennial Conference


  • Sustainable
  • Biopolymer
  • Bioplastic polytethylene
  • Polyester
  • Soya
  • Humic Acid


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