Solar energy can be used to kill insects that infest museum collections around the world.
CANBERRA, Australia – The Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is working with Agnes Brokerhof, a conservation scientist from the Netherlands Cultural Institution, who is in Australia to research a non-chemical method of killing pest insects. She is working with researchers at CSIRO’s Entomology Stored Grain Research Laboratory. They have developed a process that uses solarisation to turn solar radiation into heat. A solar tent absorbs the 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, and is particularly suitable for use in developing countries with limited funds for heritage conservation. “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,” says Brokerhof. “It is portable, simple to use, completely non toxic and can be set up almost anywhere, as long as there is sun.” “Solarisation treatment can be used on a wide variety of museum collections with no threat of damage,” she adds. “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.” The idea of using solarisation as a way to control insect infestation in museum exhibits was first suggested a decade ago by Jonathan Banks, former head of CSIRO’s Stored Grain Research Lab. Brokerhof hopes to published her findings next year with the view to making the technology available to developing countries as soon as possible.