Two Life Sciences PhD students were chosen to present their research at an international conference for analytical chemists.

Ami Pass and Nicole Fielding were two out of 16 students invited to give a talk in the Heritage Science section of the Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exposition (EAS2013) in New Jersey, US.

Ami, a Research Fellow at the University, is conducting research into the kinetics of paper degradation under different atmospheres, and is particularly interested in the effect of oxygen content on the degradation rate.

She is working in collaboration with the British Library, which has built a new multi-million pound Additional Storage Building (ASB) at Boston Spa in West Yorkshire. It provides additional storage for seven million items from the UK’s national printed collection and is one of the first of its kind, combining a sophisticated automated retrieval system with a strictly controlled, preservation quality, internal environment.

Ami said: “The site utilises technology which reduces the oxygen content in the building, primarily to eliminate fire risk. However, my research has shown that the reduced oxygen atmosphere provides a significant preservation benefit to books and paper-based products being stored in the buildings.”

This research could be transferred to a variety of different applications, including the use of oxygen-reduced frames for the storage of important artworks.

Dr Andrew Lerwill, formally of the Tate (UK) and the Getty (US), and now based at the Rochester Institute of Technology (US), commented:  “The result of this research is brilliant news. The potential of hypoxic (depriving of oxygen) storage is becoming evident with significant implications.”

Nicole Fielding, currently the Athena SWAN Project Officer at the University, carried out research for her PhD focussing on the development of a new methodology to monitor the movement of moisture through historic mass masonry.

She evaluated the use of soil moisture probes, commonly used in agriculture, for historic buildings, and developed algorithms for their use in a range of traditional building materials. The results have shown that a single mathematical model is sufficient to determine the moisture content within historic mass masonry structures. Nicole’s research was conducted in collaboration with Trinity House, the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, responsible for the upkeep and repair of 64 lighthouses.

Nicole said: “There isn’t currently a single effective way to accurately determine water content within masonry. Being able to monitor moisture movement through a building is vital if we are to understand the nature of the decay and put effective conservation strategies in place.”

The EAS is one of the largest analytical chemistry conferences on the US East Coast, and is held each year to provide professional scientists and students continuing education in the analytical and allied sciences through symposia of research papers, workshops and short courses.