Shrimp By-Product May Be Key to Artifact Preservation

America’s favorite seafood may now be used to preserve historic artifacts recovered from the sea. Zarah Walsh, at the University of Cambridge, is studying the application of a newly developed “cross-linked polymer network” consisting of chitosan, made from shrimp shells, the guar plant, an annual legume, and the “host molecule” cucurbit[8]uril.


The polymer soaks into wood, degraded by marine organisms and bacteria. The polymer then bonds with the wood, as well as metal residues like iron from nails, bolts, and similar items, to provide structural stability. It also helps stop the shrinking process that wood goes through while drying.

Walsh hopes this new material will provide a “one-stop” product to address the multiplicity of problems faced by conservationists when preserving and drying important historical artifacts.


Although Walsh is testing the creation on small pieces of the Mary Rose, King Henry VIII’s recovered naval flagship, it will require many more trials before being applied to large artifacts.


Gunther, Matthew. “Polymer Preservative Set to Save Wooden Artifacts.” Chemistry World, Royal Society of Chemistry. November 14, 2014. Web. November 2014.