Understanding paper degradation: identification of products of cellulosic paper decomposition at the wet-dry “tideline” interface using GC-MS

Sergey Sladkevich, Anne Laurence Dupont, Michel Sablier, Dalila Seghouane, Richard B. Cole*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Cellulose paper degradation products forming in the “tideline” area at the wet-dry interface of pure cellulose paper were analyzed using gas chromatography-electron ionization-mass spectrometry (GC-EI-MS) and high-resolution electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS, LTQ Orbitrap) techniques. Different extraction protocols were employed in order to solubilize the products of oxidative cellulose decomposition, i.e., a direct solvent extraction or a more laborious chromophore release and identification (CRI) technique aiming to reveal products responsible for paper discoloration in the tideline area. Several groups of low molecular weight compounds were identified, suggesting a complex pathway of cellulose decomposition in the tidelines formed at the cellulose-water-oxygen interface. Our findings, namely the appearance of a wide range of linear saturated carboxylic acids (from formic to nonanoic), support the oxidative autocatalytic mechanism of decomposition. In addition, the identification of several furanic compounds (which can be, in part, responsible for paper discoloration) plus anhydro carbohydrate derivatives sheds more light on the pathways of cellulose decomposition. Most notably, the mechanisms of tideline formation in the presence of molecular oxygen appear surprisingly similar to pathways of pyrolytic cellulose degradation. More complex chromophore compounds were not detected in this study, thereby revealing a difference between this short-term tideline experiment and longer-term cellulose aging.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8133-8147
Number of pages15
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number28
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Cellulose degradation
  • Chromophores
  • Paper conservation
  • Tideline


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