SEAHA PhD student Natalie Brown’s research investigating the chemical and physical properties of 19th and 20th C Chinese paper has been published in Heritage Science. Her work specialises in analytical methods that can be used to characterise this paper, specifically in view of its stability and potential conservation issues. Natalie also explored non-destructive methods of characterisation with the purpose of being able to characterise historically important collections in the future.
In the paper, systematic characterisation was carried out on 178 Chinese paper samples using various physical, chemical and spectroscopic techniques. Properties such as pH, degree of polymerisation, lignin content, tensile strength, and grammage were tested analytically. In response to the special attributes of many of the papers, such as low grammage and material inhomogeneity analytical tests were modified where needed, and a new method of zero-span tensile strength was developed collaboration with her industrial partner (Lichtblau e.K.). Natalie was able to successfully build near-infrared spectroscopy applications for several properties including pH, degree of polymerisation, lignin content and dating.
For Natalie, this was a deeply gratifying research project as previously there has been a lack of understanding of the material properties of historic Chinese paper within the generally accessible scientific literature. It is her hope that this paper demonstrates the importance of studying this unique paper and illustrates methods that can be taken forward by others in the field. This research project is also the first part of a collaborative project exploring the long-term degradation of these papers and future research will focus on optimising the NIR applications.
The paper has been published open access here.
Header Image: Two samples of handmade 19th C Chinese paper.