Borers in the museum are as welcome as ants in the kitchen, but a solar tent that harnesses the sun's radiation may be the solution to a curator's prayer.
Agnes Brokerhof, a conservation scientist from the Netherlands Cultural Institution (ICN) is in Australia to research a non-chemical method of killing pest insects which infest important museum collections.
The solarisation process is particularly suitable for use in developing countries with limited funds for heritage conservation, says Ms Brokerhof.
"An advantage of this method is that the solar tent is built from materials that are cheap and easy to find, even in poor countries," she says. "It's portable, simple to use, completely non toxic and can be set up almost anywhere, as long as there is sun."
Solarisation involves turning solar radiation into heat. The solar tent absorbs solar radiation, turns it into heat, and ensures that the heat does not escape. The heat changes the protein structure in the insects' bodies, causing their death.
"Solarisation treatment can be used on a wide variety of museum collections with no threat of damage," says Ms Brokerhof. "Our intention is to produce an instructional booklet, so that museum curators and collectors have an effective, cheap, and safe method of dealing with insect infestations."
Ms Brokerhof is working with researchers at the CSIRO Entomology Stored Grain Research Laboratory (SGRL) in Canberra.
"The idea of using solarisation as a way to control insect infestation in museum exhibits was first suggested in the early '90s by Dr Jonathan Banks, former head of the SGRL" says Ms. Brokerhof.
"I value the expertise of the scientists at the Stored Grain Lab," she says. "Their ideas and knowledge have allowed my project to progress rapidly."
Ms. Brokerhof hopes to published her findings next year with the view to making the technology available to developing countries as soon as possible.
Materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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