Colorimetric sensor arrays: development and application to art conservation

Maria K. LaGasse, Kristen McCormick, Zheng Li, Herant Khanjian, Michael Schilling, Kenneth S. Suslick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acceptable air pollutant concentration limits for sensitive artwork are generally at or below a few ppb: this is only ∼1% of the permissible exposure limits for humans. Monitoring pollutants at such low levels is an exceptional challenge, especially to do so in a cost-effective fashion for a large number of locations and microenvironments (e.g., every display case in a museum). To meet this challenge, we have extended our portable “optoelectronic nose,” by using new sensor array chemistry to develop cumulative colorimetric sensor arrays with dosimetric sensitivities that are dramatically better than commercial sensor tubes. The color changes of each sensor in a disposable printed array produce a composite response to volatiles. Using cell phone camera imaging, we have made field trials to monitor pollutant exposure of artwork from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library during shipping to and exhibition in Beijing. This exhibition, “Drawn from Life: the Art of Disney Animation Studios,” featured animation drawings, story sketches, layouts, and concept art spanning the 90 years of the Disney Animation Studio’s history. Sensor arrays monitored exterior and interior environments of passe-partout artwork frames during exhibition and inside shipping crates during transport providing quantitative information on oxidant, aldehyde, and sulfide pollutant exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-140
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Institute for Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018


  • Colorimetric sensor array
  • air pollution
  • pollutants
  • preventive conservation
  • sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Museology

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