Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.104, No.12, 5361-5370, 2020
Biocleaning of starch glues from textiles by means of alpha-amylase-based treatments
Glues based on starch are widely used for the consolidation of brittle fibres in historic and archaeological textiles. Ageing fabrics are affected by hydrolysis/oxidation and cross-linking of these glues, a decrease of glues' solubility, the formation of cracks, and discoloration. The hydrolytic action of enzymes on starch-based glues is promising, as molecular recognition offers great selectivity. However, a systematic assessment of the best methods for applying enzymatic formulations has not been explored yet. Here, alpha-amylase was applied either by pipetting a solution or combining with gellan gel (embedded in the gel or spread on the gel surface). The effectiveness of the different formulations on the removal of potato and wheat starch was evaluated by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and colorimetric measurements. Enzymes dispersed in gel showed weak diffusion at the surface, resulting in poor starch breakdown and removal. On the contrary, amylase applied by pipette and spread on gel resulted in high starch removal selectivity and efficiency, with neither swelling nor damage to the fibres. These results validate protocols for the assessment of the enzymatic activity on glue-consolidated fibres, identify best application methods and confirm the excellent properties of amylase dispersions for the conservation of historic and archaeological textiles.