Acetylation of cellulose – Another pathway of natural cellulose aging during library storage of books and papers

Antje Potthast*, Kyujin Ahn, Manuel Becker, Thomas Eichinger, Mirjana Kostic, Stefan Böhmdorfer, Myung Joon Jeong, Thomas Rosenau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
54 Downloads (Pure)


Gaseous acetic acid is formed under conditions of storage of historic paper objects. Its presence not only promotes hydrolytic cleavage of cellulose, but also causes acetylation of the cellulosic material to very small degree. The acetylation reaction proceeds under ambient conditions and without catalyst. Different analytical methods were used to prove the presence of organic acetates on cellulosic paper matrices. DESI-MS in combination with 2H-isotopic labeling showed the presence of sugar fragments with different acetylation patterns. A method based on Zemplen saponification was applied and worked also in the presence of a large excess of acetic acid and/or inorganic acetates. The acetylation effect was quantified for model papers and original, naturally aged paper samples. While cellulose acetylation was clearly proven to be another general pathway of paper aging, further studies of this acetylation phenomenon are needed with regard to conservational aspects and suitable paper storage conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119323
JournalCarbohydrate Polymers
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Acetylation
  • Aging
  • Cellulose
  • Conservation science
  • Degradation
  • Paper


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