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          The alkaline buffered materials in common use today were developed in the 1960s and refined throughout the 1970s. Products utilizing MicroChamber technology were developed late in the 20th century for use as preservation tools of the 21st century; they bring an entirely new level of protection to the collection managers and preservationists of today.


          MicroChamber and Artcare products have the capacity to protect and preserve where none exists in standard alkaline buffered products, i.e., they remove by-products of deterioration and pollutants. Moreover, they exceed the acid-removal capacity of buffered papers by over 100 times.


          We recommend MicroChamber and Artcare papers, boards and products for the preservation of all artifacts and collections. Most artifacts and materials are vulnerable to the deteriorative elements which may exist in the collections’ immediate environment, having arisen as by-products of deterioration either from within themselves, or from other artifacts and materials near them. Other harmful molecules exist as the widely known nemesis, acids. Regardless of the source, whether pollutants, deteriorative by-products, or acids, MicroChamber and Artcare materials offer a level of protection unachievable by conventional alkaline buffered products.


          The tests that follow provide visual evidence of the magnitude of protection provided by MicroChamber and Artcare products. While some of the conditions in these test may seem severe, they demonstrate the enormous capacity these products possess for long term protection of the artifacts and collections we hope to preserve for the future.


          This graph compares the residual strength of samples of a contemporary book paper which were stored in archival enclosures during an ageing test. The baseline value is the retained strength of the sample stored in a conventional acid-free material. The sample stored in an alkaline buffered housing was 154% stronger. Samples of the same paper stored in MicroChamber enclosures were between 254% and 300% stronger than those tested in conventional, pH-neutral archival storage materials.


          This graph compares the residual strength of samples of a 30-year-old book paper which were stored in various archival enclosures during an ageing test. The remaining strength of the samples is measured in standard MIT folds. The test results compare samples which were stored in a commercial enclosure, in three kinds of conventional acid-free archival housings— non-buffered neutral pH, and alkaline buffered, pH 7.5—with samples from MicroChamber enclosures.




Before testing

          On the left in this photo are new MicroChamber file folders. On the right are high quality, alkaline-buffered file folders. Each has one half of a 34 year old, acidic, naturally aged book page. The page portions were enclosed in the folders and exposed together to a pollutant gas (NO2)


After testing

          The page housed in the MicroChamber folder is shown folded, indicating its retained strength. The page housed in the alkaline buffered folder, shown here in small flakes, was so brittle after the test that it snapped when folding was attempted.



          The image in this picture is probably familiar to everyone. The damages seen as yellowed edges of this book paper are caused by atmospheric pollutants. As you can see in the photographs of the laboratory jars on page 15 containing the pollutant, NO2, a small amount of MicroChamber paper can remove a considerable quantity of pollutants. If this book had been stored within a MicroChamber housing, this damage could have been prevented.




          No common paper is more clearly vulnerable to deterioration than newsprint. Intended for short term use, it is nonetheless frequently kept in collections. The two copies of the same paper were subjected together to an accelerated aging test using gas infusion of two common pollutants. The copy on the left was protected with an enclosure of conventional archival board, while the copy on the right was protected by MicroChamber board.



            MicroChamber products provide actual preventative conservation protection for collections, as opposed to the passive state of “doing no harm”, the most that can be achieved by the better buffered conservation papers. Preventing deterioration from taking place while collections are matted, framed or stored in archival housings and enclosures is the ultimate goal of collections management. MicroChamber papers and boards offer archivists, curators and conservation specialists the only proven, highly effective and inexpensive products which can provide significant preventative conservation results.


How long will it last?

            The differences between MicroChamber buffered conservation papers and boards and ordinary buffered archival papers and boards are based on the differences in capacity and effectiveness.



            The results from tests using gas chromatography show that if we have equivalent papers - for example a 65 g/m2 interleaving paper, or a 130 g/m2, .006” thick envelope paper, or a standard 250 g/m2 archival file folder paper in both MicroChamber paper and buffered paper, the MicroChamber papers have 170 times the acid-removal capacity of the buffered papers. In other words, the buffered paper would have to be replaced 170 times before you would need to replace the MicroChamber paper. (Acetic acid is a primary by-product of deterioration of both paper and film).



            MicroChamber products provide protection against oxidative and acid gaseous pollutants such as ozone (O3), oxides of nitrogen (NOx, NO, NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), as well as a great many other molecules which can harm collections. Such molecules pass unaffected through even the thickest buffered boards, where they can contact and damage collections housed within.




          The print was cut into two. One section, shown on the right, was matted and framed in Artcare. The section shown on the left was matted with a buffered rag conservation board. Together, they were framed and subjected to a pollution gas test environment consisting of nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide. While the section matted in conservation rag board shows quite significant deterioration, the portion protected by MicroChamber Technology remains virtually unchanged.


            The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supplies data for a maximum hourly rate of a range of pollutants measured in New York City and Los Angeles. Using these maximum concentration, we can calculate the maximum amount of a pollutant such as SO2 in one liter of air. Exposing a 24 x 36 MicroChamber folder to a fresh liter (slightly more volume than a quart container) of polluted air every hour, we find, at the maximum hourly concentration level of pollutants measured in New York and Los Angeles, the MicroChamber folder has the capacity to remove the SO2 in N.Y. city for 8219 years, and in L.A. for 26,224 years. Obviously if the air exchange is increased this figure will be lower. For example, if the air flow rate into the folder was increased to 10 liters per hour, the figures would drop to 1233 years for N.Y. city and 3933 years in L.A. Of course the MicroChamber product will also remove other harmful molecules, in addition to the SO2. Therefore to the extent these other molecules are present and removed, the maximum quantity of SO2 which can be removed will be lowered. However these figures do provide a point against which you can form a comparison between the effectiveness (zero) of buffered products and MicroChamber products.


By-products of deterioration

            MicroChamber papers are very effective at removing pre-acidic by-products of deterioration, such as aldehydes. These pre-acidic deteriorative by-products pass unaffected through traditional buffered paper because the deteriorative by-products do not react with the alkaline reserve in buffered papers. If we assume all of the acetaldehyde (a precursor to acetic acid) removed as deteriorative by-products by the MicroChamber paper will become acetic acid, we find the MicroChamber paper can remove what would become 231 times as much acid as would form if only the buffered paper were present.





          The photo above shows a poster which was cut into two sections. They were framed separately and exposed together to a pollutant gas (NO2). The top section, which was damaged by exposure to the pollutant, was framed with alkaline buffered museum rag board. The bottom section, which was not damaged by the gas, was framed with Alpharag Artcare museum mounting board.


Above is a small, untested section of the original poster.




          You are looking at scanning electron microscope images of the edge, not the surface, of a sheet of MicroChamber paper. You are seeing the .0055” thickness of a 70 lb. (104 g/m2) MicroChamber text (book) paper. The image on the left shows our proprietary SPZ zeolite and alkaline buffers interspersed throughout the thickness of the paper. On the right you see the colored enhanced image of this picture. The colors relate to specific particles: the black is the paper fibre, blue is the SPZ zeolite, and red is the alkaline buffers. In this photograph, a molecule would have to pass through from left to right: you can see how difficult it would be for a molecule to pass through even this very thin paper without encountering a molecular trap.


          Two color photographs, one framed in Alpharag Artcare Museum board, the other in a standard alkaline buffered rag mat board. They were subjected together to accelerated aging. The image on the left, protected by Alpharag Artcare, is unchanged. The image on the right, framed in the standard buffered rag board, shows significant damage.



Original Photo



Framed with The Artcare™ Archival System


Framed with Other Preservation Boards


            All Artcare products are manufactured by Nielsen & Bainbridge using MicroChamber technology. Alpharag Artcare doesn’t merely provide museum quality matting, it provides protection against pollution and external acids; factors proven to discolor, fade and damage artwork. No other rag product can guard against these elements. Alpharag Artcare is the highest quality 100% cotton rag. Unlike the competitive rag boards made of three inconsistent plies, Alpharag Artcare is manufactured with 4 equal plies for unsurpassed rigidity and strength. Also available in 1- and 2- ply barrier versions, 4-ply Alpharag Artcare with protective technology is quite simply the best rag board available.


Black and White

          Two identical 35mm negatives were tested. One was covered with MicroChamber paper, the other with a high quality, alkaline-buffered alpha cellulose paper. Together, they were exposed to an atmosphere containing 2000 ppm oxidizing gas (H2O2) and 330 ppm acid gas (NO2) for 18 hours at 50°C, 80% RH. The negative covered by the archival paper, which was twice as thick as the MicroChamber paper, was severely damaged. The yellow color is characteristic of oxidative gas damage, while the visible pattern of crystalline deposits on the base side of the negative appears to be the result of the NO2, or the interaction of the NO2 with the H2O2.


          Two stamps shown after they were subjected together to an accelerated aging test. The undamaged stamp on the right was protected by Artcare. The damaged stamp on the left was framed in a standard buffered rag board.


          This photo shows some of the colors and weights of Bainbridge Alpharag Artcare boards. All Artcare products incorporate MicroChamber technology. All Artcare Alpharag products are 100% cotton rag boards with MicroChamber technology.


Microfilm Boxboard

          This film sample was protected during a single 18-hour test cycle by a 252 lb. commercial “acid-free” microfilm boxboard. Density increase (damage) was measured as high as .90 (test failure is 0.05), discoloration was complete across the entire sample.


          A single film sample protected by three different archival enclosure materials during one 18-hour cycle. Top: non buffered, ligninfree, sulfur-free alpha cellulose conservation paper. Middle: MicroChamber paper. Bottom: alkaline buffered, alkaline pH, alpha cellulose conservation paper. The portion of the film sample protected by MicroChamber paper shows no change, while both areas covered by high-quality conservation papaer, one buffered, one non-buffered, show significant discoloration.


MicroChamber Enclosure . . . No change.


Conservation Paper

          This film sample was protected by the highest quality, traditional 66 lb. conservation paper: lignin-free, sulfur-free alpha cellulose, alkaline buffered, and alkaline pH. After nine cycles, (162 hours), this sample exhibited density increases as much as 2.29 (0.05 is failure), and complete overall discoloration.



MicroChamber Paper

          This film sample was protected by a very light weight MicroChamber paper, equivalent to a sheet of 16 lb. bond, a covering so thin that the negative could be seen through the MicroChamber paper. This sample had been through ten cycles (180 hours) when the test series was stopped. The lightweight MicroChamber provided complete protection: the film sample it housed showed no change whatsoever.


          Two sections of the same animation cell were subjected together to atmospheric pollutants. The section at left, which showed damaged after the test, was housed in an archival conservation board. The section on the right, which showed no damage, was housed in MicroChamber products.


          Silver gelatin print out paper (colloidal silver) exposed to two 18 hour test cycles at 50°C, 2O2 and 110 PPM NO2.


          Patented MicroChamber papers and boards are comprised of alkaline buffers combined with dispersed molecular traps to remove and neutralize acids, pollutants, and the harmful by-products of deterioration. They are available both buffered and with a neutral pH, non-buffered surface layer of cotton (MicroChamber/Silversafe) for those artifacts sensitive to an alkaline environment. Like Conservation Resources buffered and unbuffered Lig-free papers, MicroChamber products are made from the highest quality lignin-free and sulfur-free alpha cellulose paper, and like Lig-free products, they pass or exceed the requirements of all archival standards, including the Photographic Activity Test (PAT).


          MicroChamber products can be used effectively as housings such as envelopes, folders, boxes, matting, framing and interleaving paper, and they provide great benefits when used in exhibit cases, drawers, cabinets and high density storage areas to inhibit tarnishing and other manifestations of deterioration caused by a build-up of harmful compounds, whether from materials used to construct the exhibit case or housing, the artifacts themselves, or from deleterious molecules in the vicinity of collections or the environment itself.


         Laboratory desiccator jars with conservation paper. MicroChamber paper samples, in the sealed jar on the left, and samples of an alkaline buffered conservation paper in the jar at right. Taken at the start of an NO2 gas infusion test, just as a nitrogen dioxide reaction forms in the base of each jar.


After one Hour

          A fully-developed cloud of nitrogen dioxide smog has formed in the jar with buffered conservation paper, while in the jar at left, the MicroChamber paper has completely neutralized the pollutant. After the test, the pH of the buffered paper fell to a highly acidic 2.4, while the MicroChamber sample retained its neutral pH.



MicroChamber Emulsion

          MicroChamber Emulsion is designed to be applied to exhibit cases and display units, drawers, shelves and cabinet surfaces, and for use inside packing and shipping crates to protect artworks and valuable historic artifacts. Surfaces treated with new MicroChamber Emulsion protect against airborne pollutants from both indoor and outdoor sources, the cumulative by-products of deterioration, and harmful substances which migrate from materials such as wood. MicroChamber Emulsion is the only surface treatment which can provides preventative conservation protection in rooms which house collections, in conservation labs, photographic darkrooms, exhibition galleries, offices and homes. It is indicated in locations surrounding laser printers and photocopiers, and internal environments where high levels of ozone, peroxides and other airborne pollutants exist. MicroChamber Emulsion may be applied to paper, board, cloth, canvas, wood, metal, glass, plaster, painted or unpainted drywall, foam, plastic and to most common structural substrates. MicroChamber Emulsion will be effective applied in areas open to environmental air exchange or in closed storage, shipping and exhibition cases. Dries to an effective preventative conservation surface within eight hours. Contains activated carbon in an aqueous dispersion with calcium carbonate and acrylic polymer. pH 8.0, total solids 37.4% (± 1%). Patented. 750 ml. Item MCE-750.



Nitrogen Dioxide Gas Infusion Test of MicroChamber Emulsion

          Two identical boxes were made from a conventional alkaline buffered conservation board. The interior of the box on the right was coated with MicroChamber Emulsion. A black-and-white negative, a strip of newspaper, a pH paper, and a copper strip were placed in each box. The boxes were subjected, together, to a nitrogen dioxide gas infusion test. All four test samples housed in the buffered conservation board box suffered severe damage. None of the samples in the box protected by a coating of MicroChamber Emulsion showed any change. The two photographic negatives, enlarged at left, show the unprotected emulsion has discolored significantly.