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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 20 (2015) pp 117-119

An Introduction to the Physical and Chemical Properties of Paper

Anna C. Nagy, Naomi Lev and Christine Jaworek-Lopes*

Department of Chemistry and Physics, Emmanuel College, 400 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115,
Received March 11, 2015. April 13, 2015.

Published: 7 May 2015

Abstract. Paper is a common support upon which many works of art are found. Herein, we describe an experiment introducing students to selected physical and chemical properties of paper. Specifically, we examine papers commonly used by the artist under a dissecting microscope. Additionally, we observe the tendency of these papers to absorb water and oil; we compare the absorbency of samples of papers coated in gesso to uncoated papers. Finally, yellowed newspaper and brown paper bags are subjected to oxidative and reductive bleaching conditions. This laboratory is suitable for use in a high school or non-majors laboratory setting.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; general chemistry; non-major laboratory; art; paper; bleaching; fibers; sodium borohydride; conservation

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (117 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Laboratory handout, data sheet, representative data sheet key, instructor’s guide.(381 KB)

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