Accelerated ageing to study the degradation of cellulose nitrate museum artefacts

Anita Quye, David Littlejohn, Richard A. Pethrick, Robert Stewart

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Cellulose nitrate is susceptible to hydrolysis as well as loss of plasticiser when left in a humid atmosphere. A comparison of the ageing behaviour of cellulose nitrate samples prepared from cotton linters was used to simulate the artefacts studied in a previous study. Certain artefacts were also subjected to accelerated ageing at 12%, 55% and 75% relative humidity at 70 degrees C. The rate of degradation was observed to vary with the RH, indicating the connection between the absorption of moisture and the hydrolysis process. The effect of varying the sulphate level on the rate of hydrolysis was studied using concentrations similar to those detected in artefacts. The study was carried out using <0.1 mg g(-1), 2 mg g(-1) and 5 mg g(-1) of sulphate and distinct differences were observed which is consistent with the conclusions drawn for a study of a number of artefacts. The observed rates of degradation are consistent with previous studies on cellulose nitrate. The degradation was studied using a combination of infrared spectroscopy, ion chromatography and gel permeation chromatography. The analysis was complemented by a study of the weight changes which occur during ageing. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1934-1939
Number of pages6
JournalPolymer Degradation and Stability
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • cellulose nitrate
  • infrared spectroscopy
  • ion chromatography
  • gel permeation chromatography
  • ageing
  • degradation


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