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  • 1.  Humidity Control

    Posted 04-26-2017 02:01 PM

    We are looking a humidity control help. We have info about Art Sorb cassettes (expensive) or the alternative Functional Reusable silica Gel Desiccant Humidity. Any comments... please

    Alberto Soto
    Graphic Design
    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    787-250-6193 office

  • 2.  RE: Humidity Control

    Posted 04-27-2017 09:19 AM
    You might think about a portable dehumidifer that will turn itself off when full.  You can get some that will hold about 5 gallons of water which could last 1/2 to a full day depending on your level of humidity.

    Good luck.

    you can contafct me off list if you want.

    Marybeth Tomka
    University of Texas, Austin Texas Archeological Research Lab
    Austin, TX

  • 3.  RE: Humidity Control

    Posted 04-28-2017 07:43 AM

    A portable dehumidifier could be a stop-gap solution, but it should be plumbed to drain in order that it not stop when full.  When the dehumidifier turns off, the ambient relative humidity (RH) in the space will immediately rise, causing a rapid change in RH.  Recurrent rapid and large variations in RH are as deleterious for collection protection as are extreme highs and lows in RH.  You want to design your climate management system (no matter how low-tech) to produce gradual, small incremental changes in RH.  You absolutely do not need to aim for a straight line at 50% RH on a climate chart.  Monitor your space to ascertain what are the baseline RH and temperature trends.  Identify a RH and temperature range that can be reasonably maintained in that space.  Then introduce equipment that slows down and reduces the range in changes in RH and temperature.  This can be done with portable dehumidifiers (and humidifiers) but they need to operate without cessation.

    Valentine Talland
    Conservation Consultant
    Valentine Talland Art Conservation LLC
    Cambridge, MA

  • 4.  RE: Humidity Control

    Posted 05-01-2017 10:29 AM
    Here is a paper conservators perspective: 

    I like them both (love them really), I use them in different ways and there are many caveats to how and when I put them into play, but they are both very useful materials for localized humidity control in less than ideal environments.  Artsorb is a material that is conditioned to a specific relative humidity ( 45% or 50%) it takes up and releases moisture, while Silica is a desiccant designed to take up moisture until it is saturated and then it can be reconditioned by drying it out in an oven.    

    I use them in the following ways: 
    -Artsorb is used in frame packages to buffer against dramatic changes while art work is in transit for loan,  or on display in an environment that has a record of fluctuations (it has proven very effective for seasonal swings in frame packages and sealed exhibit cases in the historic house setting) 

    -Desiccants are used in packaging when I am confronted with a moldy item that needs to be isolated from the collection and cannot be re-mediated straight away. The risk of over-drying the item is trumped by the risk of spreading mold elsewhere. 

    More information on what kind of humidity threat you are facing would be helpful. I have integrated them into long-term strategies for localized control with other tools ( i.e. dehumidifiers, air conditioners, tweeking of daily operation habits etc..) but they are rarely a long-term solution on their own. I have made my judgments from looking at the data of the environment in which the collections are living so if you have data to look back on you can work out a way they will be most useful.

    Michele Phillips
    Paper Conservator

  • 5.  RE: Humidity Control

    Posted 05-02-2017 04:53 PM
    I think there are a lot of competing terms for these products, which can cause a lot of confusion. Silica gel is not always strictly a desiccant. It can be conditioned to a specific RH, just like ArtSorb (which contains silica gel as well as other ingredients) to buffer against changes in humidity.

    Here's a handy white paper written by Van Wood in our office that helps to describe some of the options and how silica gel may be used in museum environments:

    Silica gel is a granular, vitreous, porous form of silicon dioxide made from sodium silicate. It is a naturally-occurring mineral that is purified and processed into a granular or beaded form.  It is frequently used in commercial and household applications, typically for water absorption.

    It is also a common and very effective tool to maintain stable relative humidity in a sealed exhibit case.  The material is very porous and the surface area of the internal pores is extremely high, in the range of several hundred square meters per gram. Water molecules are readily adsorbed onto these interior surfaces.  The effect is that the silica gel is a sponge, ready to accept water and release water.  

    For museum applications, silica gel can be conditioned to a specific relative humidity by allowing dry gel to adsorb a specific amount of water.  Once conditioned, the gel will "try" to maintain the specific relative humidity associated with that percentage of water content.  Dryer air infiltrating the case will cause the air in the case (and the gel) to gradually dry out, and the introduction of more humid air will cause the gel and the interior environment to gradually become more moist. The gel will act as a buffer to slow down the changes in the case by giving up or taking on water.  A case that is better sealed and has more silica gel will have a more stable relative humidity.

    In the real world, silica gel cannot maintain an absolutely stable relative humidity in a case that's in an unstable environment.  However, stability within a few percentage points is readily achievable.  The factors affecting how much gel to use are:

    1. How well-sealed the case is, i.e., what its air exchange rate is
    2. How often you are willing or able to change or recondition the gel
    3. How far away from your target humidity you're willing to go
    4. How far from your target humidity the gallery is

    Numbers two and three are a matter of personal choice.  Number four can be measured or fairly easily guessed at. Number one is the hardest to figure out. 

    Exhibit cases can range from several air exchanges per day to nearly hermetically-sealed.  With a little effort, most cases can be brought into the range of two exchanges per day.  A well-designed and fabricated case can be brought under 0.1 air exchange per day.  Achieving air exchange rates less than 0.1 per day requires great care and sophistication of design. It is important to remember - when using a well-sealed case always take care that the materials in the case are suitable and will not harm the objects.

    The following types of silica gel, or modified silica gel products, are commonly used in museums. Each has characteristics that make it most-suitable for specific conditions.

    1. Type E silica gel works well in the 0-30% RH range
    2. Type A silica gel works well in the 0-60% range
    3. Art Sorb (which contains both silicon dioxide and lithium chloride) works well above 60% RH.

    Many products sold as "desiccants" are good for drying things out, but not good for maintaining a microclimate. Type A silica gel is the most versatile product for microclimates at typical museum humidity requirements.

    Typically, silica gel will have to be reconditioned from time to time by either drying it out or adding moisture to it. This is especially true when objects in the case require an RH that is markedly different from the gallery average, when putting enough gel into the case isn't practical, or when the case is too leaky. Simple equipment is available for conditioning silica gel. If the yearly average humidity in the gallery is acceptable for the objects, it is often possible to put enough silica gel into a case such that no maintenance is required.  In such a situation, the gel can buffer the daily and seasonal variations enough to keep the objects within an acceptable range. 

    Care should be taken in placing the gel media to ensure that the surface of the silica gel has enough exposure to the case environment. There should be ample air circulation between the area where the gel is and the air surrounding the objects.  Gel hidden in risers near the objects will be particularly effective. Gel under the case deck will require a gap around the edge of the deck of at least 3/8" for air circulation. If the gel is in a thick mass, the gel that is not near the surface will be very slow to react.  A maximum of one inch of thickness is a good guideline.

    Silica gel, whether conditioned to a specific RH or not, should be stored in sealed, archival containers.  Otherwise, it will gradually take on the RH of the surrounding environment. If you choose not to recondition your silica gel, and assuming it has not come into contact with any hazardous chemicals, it can be thrown away in the garbage without any special handling.

    General microclimate guidelines:

    • Use the right gel for your RH requirement. Type A is the most versatile.
    • Don't skimp on the quantity of gel. More is always better.
    • Don't place the gel in too thick a mass. The more exposed surface area the better. A maximum of one inch of thickness is a good guideline.
    • Allow for air circulation between the gel and the objects. Gel located in the actual exhibit area is best.
    • Monitor the humidity in the case with a hygrometer or an indicator strip.
    • If your case is very well-sealed, make sure that there are no materials in the case environment that will harm the objects.

    Mike Dunphy
    Greenfield MA

  • 6.  RE: Humidity Control

    Posted 05-04-2017 06:57 AM
    Hi Alberto,

    Our museum had a very problematic (to say the least) experience with portable dehumidifiers when they were used as an emergency fix to a failed HVAC system at a venue to which we had lent several pieces. While these machines do cause major fluctuations when not frequently attended and emptied, our major issue with portable dehumidifiers was the exhaust and heat that it expelled from the backside of the unit. This caused anything behind the machine to not only have harsh fluctuations in humidity, but also extreme heat fluctuations, which caused more damage than if the dehumidifiers would not have been used.

    I agree that Art Sorb and Silica can be wonderful, albeit temporary, fixes to a humidity issue in very specific applications. However the success of these materials depends on the application, location, duration, and object type. What type of object are housed where you are having the humidity issue?

    Erin Beveridge
    Exhibit Preparator
    Pittsburgh, PA