Preserving cultural heritage: Analyzing the antifungal potential of ionic liquids tested in paper restoration.


Schmitz K, Wagner S, Reppke M, Maier CL, Windeisen-Holzhauser E, Benz JP.
PLoS One. 2019 Sep 17;14(9):e0219650.


Early industrialization and the development of cheap production processes for paper have led to an exponential accumulation of paper-based documents during the last two centuries. Archives and libraries harbor vast amounts of ancient and modern documents and have to undertake extensive endeavors to protect them from abiotic and biotic deterioration. While services for mechanical preservation such as ex post de-acidification of historic documents are already commercially available, the possibilities for long-term protection of paper-based documents against fungal attack (apart from temperature and humidity control) are very limited. Novel processes for mechanical enhancement of damaged cellulosic documents use Ionic Liquids (IL) as essential process components. With some of these ILs having azole-functionalities similar to well-known fungicides such as Clotrimazole, the possibility of antifungal activities of these ILs was proposed but has not yet been experimentally confirmed. We evaluated the potency of four ILs with potential application in paper restoration for suppression of fungal growth on five relevant paper-infesting molds. The results revealed a general antifungal activity of all ILs, which increased with the size of the non-polar group. Physiological experiments and ultimate elemental analysis allowed to determine the minimal inhibitory concentration of each IL as well as the residual IL concentration in process-treated paper. These results provide valuable guidelines for IL-applications in paper restoration processes with antifungal activity as an added benefit. With azoles remaining in the paper after the process, simultaneous repair and biotic protection in treated documents could be facilitated.