Vinegar Syndrome reaction
What is the vinegar syndrome?
This is one of the main type of degradation that a cel can encounter and probably one of the most devastating. It took us several years to identify and understand all the cases in which this syndrome can appear. The most common one, as its name stand for, is a cel that start to smell like vinegar… Indeed, Any cel during its life will release a certain amount of acetic acid, this is a normal process that occurs naturally. but at a certain time during this process, this same process will start to accelerate exponentially and damage the cel. This acceleration is called the vinegar syndrome.
First of all, to understand this reaction , it is important to explain what an acid is. To simplify it and still be an acceptable definition , we can say that an acid is any kind of substance that can free a proton.
Every acid molecule is bad for a cel, in contact with a cellulose molecular chain, this acid will break the link of the cellulose, and in the long run, it will damage the molecular integrity of the entire layer which, will damage the entire cel. By breaking the molecular links of the cellulose, the chain now becomes unstable… and some of the carbon atoms will lose one of their electrons in the process and become a carbonium ion. This carbonium ion seeks desperately another electron to become stable again, and this electron can be found easily in the water molecules contained in the air!
This reaction that makes this carbon ion stable again will release another hydrogen ion (acid) coming from the water molecule (H2O) which now will be attached to another part of the cellulose chain, breaking in the process the chain even more and so on.
This full reaction is a normal process that occurs naturally to any cel during its life. It’s a very slow process (around 200 years to take place).
Now if a cel is not kept in “normal good condition” (temperature between 15 and 25 degree Celsius and relative humidity between 40% and 60%), this reaction can become an auto-catalyst reaction, it means that the reaction will create even more acid way faster than before. This reaction will accelerate exponentially and will damage the cel much faster than in “normal good conditions”, (less than 30 years ). This auto-catalyst reaction is the vinegar syndrome reaction.
In practice, it is only when the reaction become auto-catalyst that the problems emerge. So, to know when this auto-catalyst reaction really starts, we need to know the level of acid acetic a cel is actually releasing in a time lap in a coffin space. And with this value, we can know in which “phase” of the reaction, the cel actually is.
Vinegar Syndrome services
In our conservation facility, by using our custom laboratory cabinet , we can detect and measure with precision if a cel is affected by the vinegar syndrome and at which phase of the reaction the cel actually is .