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  • Wheat and Rice Starch Adhesive Vs. Other StarchesApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-10-07 02:45:01 ... Most recent comment 2019-10-07 21:42:04
    Sizes and Adhesives

    ​Hi there! This might be a slightly esoteric question, but I was curious about the use of starch paste as an adhesive for use in paper artifact conservation.

    Why are wheat and rice starches favoured over other types of starch, for example corn or potato starch?

    Is it due to the ageing properties of the starch itself (I'm thinking for example of how simple wheat flour paste ages poorly due to the gluten content, though this presumably would not be the case with corn or potato, even in unpurified form)?

    Or is it other qualities of the adhesive, such as reversability, cost, ease of application etc?

    Thanks in advance!

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    We will send this to our paper conservation moderators and those who focus on preventive conservation in the hopes of an answer.

    Brian Baade
    2019-10-07 13:42:30
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​This is a good question.  Corn and potato starch have sometimes been used in historical applications, but you're right that rice and wheat starch paste are preferred for use in conservation.  C.V. Horie notes that potato and corn starches are more likely to be damaged during the cooking necessary to prepare a paste from starch, which leads to yellowing.  Wheat starch paste also has a higher proportion of amylose, which is what causes the paste to gel upon cooling. (see: Materials For Conservation: Organic Consolidants, Adhesives, and Coatings by CV Horie).  

    Gillian Marcus
    2019-10-07 16:21:44
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Thanks for the responses. I had not heard of starch yellowing due to overcooking. Very interesting!​

    2019-10-07 17:07:06
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Thanks so much Gillian. Here is an iconoclastic, but likely really to-the-pont, response from Hugh Phibbs.

    I find it hard to not agree with him. First we must ask, why use food as an adhesive, in an era when out climate favors increased infestation? For years I heard that methyl cellulose was too weak to use for securing art and when I learned that it was used successfully as a re-wettable adhesive in Europe, I reasoned thus: MC is non polar and thus less penetrating than polar starch, but water is very polar and if it is used to activate the dried MC film it will penetrate and draw the MC in with it. I inferred this having observed MC dehydrate starch, in a jar. Indeed, if one adds enough water, a dried MC film can from a bond that is stronger than paper. However, that entails adding H2O, a very electromotive molecule that swells   organic materials, among others. I was introduced to the idea of using Klucel G, HPC, in alcohol, at the INP in Paris, something else I had been warned off as being too weak. When it is used as a consolidate, it is used in a very dilute form, but if instead, it is made thicker, as a paste, it forms a better adhesive, which also has surfactant properties (with no surfactant added) and can adhere to plastics.  It is also non polar and non biological, so it will not encourage infestation. Films of MC and HPC are relatively clear and much more flexible than starch and both can be reversed more easily. Neither requires cooking and both can be stored at room temperature. I have no definitive recipes, for either but would recommend something like a minority of powder of MC to a majority of H2O and the same for HPC and isopropanol and extensive testing. I can still hear the words of a noted textile conservator who said to me, “Launder your textiles before storage, since food stains is where the bad stuff happens.” and thus, I am happy to avoid biology. On a side note, I think I finally know why starch is aged for many years in Asia, since that, by my way of understanding, will exhaust its biological potential. Using HPC or MC is so much easier.

    Hugh Phibbs

    2019-10-07 21:42:04
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Thanks Hugh

    We need more responses like this.

    Brian Baade
    2019-10-07 21:47:48

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