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Fields & Applications Spectroscopy, Gas Chromatography, Environmental, Chemical

Keeping Plastic Fantastic

The Disney Animation Research Library is a carefully climate-controlled facility housing original celluloids of the animation giant’s most beloved films. However, even in these state-of-the-art surroundings Disney’s early animation cels have begun to fall prey to the ravages of time; the film has started to show signs of shrinking, cracking and discoloration. Disney called in Tom Learner, head of the Getty Conservation Institute’s Science department (1) to save the day.

After analyzing cels using Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to identify the polymer base materials – cellulose diacetate and cellulose triacetate – and characterizing chemical composition using pyrolysis-GC-MS, Learner’s team discovered that it was possible to re-adhere the paint by placing the cels in humidity chambers (2). For now, at least, Bambi and Pinocchio are safe.

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About the Author

Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.

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