Scientists have discovered that a polymer derived from shrimp shells could help preserve ancient ships and other wooden objects. The polymer treatment is absorbed into wood, supporting the artifacts and protecting them from biological degradation, Chemistry World reports.
The polyethylene glycol (PEG) spray that's normally used to treat artifacts can liquify and degrade with humidity, experts told Chemistry World. So Zarah Walsh and her colleagues at the University of Cambridge developed a natural alternative with the polymer chitosan, which they gathered from leftover shrimp shells. They combined the chitosan with derivatives from the guar plant and a host molecule to create the solution.
The shrimp-based solution will "provide structural stability within damaged wood," according to Chemistry World, and it could one day be a "one-stop material for tackling the main issues conservators face when treating and drying historical objects." The solution will need to be tested before it enters mainstream use by conservators, but it could help preserve archaeological finds for years to come.