Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 408, Issue 28, pp 8133–8147 | Cite as

Understanding paper degradation: identification of products of cellulosic paper decomposition at the wet-dry “tideline” interface using GC-MS

Research Paper


Cellulose paper degradation products forming in the “tideline” area at the wet-dry interface of pure cellulose paper were analyzed using gas chromatography-electron ionization-mass spectrometry (GC-EI-MS) and high-resolution electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS, LTQ Orbitrap) techniques. Different extraction protocols were employed in order to solubilize the products of oxidative cellulose decomposition, i.e., a direct solvent extraction or a more laborious chromophore release and identification (CRI) technique aiming to reveal products responsible for paper discoloration in the tideline area. Several groups of low molecular weight compounds were identified, suggesting a complex pathway of cellulose decomposition in the tidelines formed at the cellulose-water-oxygen interface. Our findings, namely the appearance of a wide range of linear saturated carboxylic acids (from formic to nonanoic), support the oxidative autocatalytic mechanism of decomposition. In addition, the identification of several furanic compounds (which can be, in part, responsible for paper discoloration) plus anhydro carbohydrate derivatives sheds more light on the pathways of cellulose decomposition. Most notably, the mechanisms of tideline formation in the presence of molecular oxygen appear surprisingly similar to pathways of pyrolytic cellulose degradation. More complex chromophore compounds were not detected in this study, thereby revealing a difference between this short-term tideline experiment and longer-term cellulose aging.


Cellulose degradation Tideline Chromophores Paper conservation 



SS thanks the Chateaubriand Fellowship Program for the financial support for this research. SS also thanks the Office of Scientific and Academic Cooperation at the French Embassy in Israel for the support. We thank Agilent Technologies (Les Ulis, France) for providing the GC-MS equipment necessary to complete the project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2016_9916_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (232 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 231 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, Institut Parisien de Chimie Moléculaire (IPCM)Sorbonne UniversitésParis Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation des Collections (CRC, USR 3224), Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Ministère de la culture et de la communication, CNRSSorbonne UniversitésParisFrance

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