Love that old book smell? Libraries consider it a ticking time bomb.
The library is testing the Lonestar Portable Analyzer, which the company says is easy for non-specialists to use and faster than other chemical techniques (such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry).
More than 100 different compounds, including acids and alcohols, have been found in books and paper. The challenge is to identify and quantify the range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by paper as it ages — and then relate that data to the composition of the paper, and how it degrades.
Ultimately, a mechanical sniffer will be used to:
- identify the types of fibers in a book’s pages, as well as the mode and degree of degradation (for example, whether a book is undergoing acid hydrolysis or oxidation).
- figure out if books made with acidic paper will release acids that could threaten nearby books printed on non-acidic paper.
- explore the residue of past chemical treatment and acidic paper degradation.
The device could also be used to detect potato rot, melamine in milk, or scavenger chemicals in crude oil. And by the way, did you know one company has distilled the scent of printed paper into a perfume?
Image by Maguis & David via Flickr