Preserve Your Books through the Smell


The identification of paper composition, pH, early signs of paper degradation, and emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are mandatory for effective preventive conservation of paper/books. Sampling restrictions in the analysis of cultural heritage materials limit the choice of appropriate analytical methods. Solvent-free analytical techniques with nondestructive sampling are needed. Addressing this challenge, an electronic nose based on six-coated piezoelectric quartz crystals was assembled and used to analyze VOCs emitted from books. Careful selection of sensor coatings and cluster analysis allowed us to achieve a clear distinction between cotton/linen rag and wood pulp paper, and among the letter group, the discrimination between papers manufactured from alkaline and acidic stocks. This six-element sensor array was therefore able to replace destructive tests as the ones ordinarily used for paper pH measurements. The same electronic nose was able to separate aged pale-yellow paper, a visible initial sign of paper degradation, from well-preserved still white papers, even when made from the same raw material. One of the used sensors detected furfural, often seen as a marker of cellulose degradation, at lower levels than the detection limit found in the literature with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, a much more complex bulky and expensive instrument.



subject category

Chemistry; Science & Technology - Other Topics


Verissimo, MIS; Oliveira, JABP; Evtuguin, DV; Gomes, MTSR

our authors


Thanks are due to FCT/MCTES for the financial support to CESAM (UID/AMB/50017/2019) and to CICECO-Aveiro Institute of Materials (UID/CTM/S0011/2019), through national funds. M.I.S.V. would like to acknowledge the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), for the post-doctoral grant BPD/394267/2013. Authors would like to acknowledge University of Aveiro Library for the loan of some of the oldest books used and for the interest shown in the device.

Share this project:

Related Publications

We use cookies for marketing activities and to offer you a better experience. By clicking “Accept Cookies” you agree with our cookie policy. Read about how we use cookies by clicking "Privacy and Cookie Policy".