Cyclododecane and fossil vertebrates: some applications for matrix removal, moulding and shipping
Over the past decade, cyclododecane (CDD) has been increasingly adopted by vertebrate fossil preparators as a more effective and advantageous material for several standard treatments and for new applications borrowed from art and artefact conservation. Many techniques in palaeontology utilise CDD's special properties, including its use as a temporary embedding and support material to protect fragile specimens during removal of rock matrix; as a barrier layer during consolidation; as a temporary consolidant; as a temporary filler during airscribe preparation; as acid-resistant protection for fossil bone during dissolution of the limestone matrix; as a gap-filler, sealant and separator during silicone rubber moulding; and as a protective coating for specimens that are otherwise too delicate to ship. In several of these techniques, CDD replaces materials traditionally used in preparation - such as polyethylene glycol (PEG), microcrystalline wax or oil-based clay - that must subsequently be laboriously melted, dissolved or mechanically removed. CDD is not used in some fossil preparation laboratories due to health and safety concerns. It is hoped that continued exchange of information with art and artefact conservators will promote safe handling practices, encourage experimentation and spark new ideas.
This paper is published in the book ‘Subliming Surfaces: Volatile Binding Media in Heritage Conservation’, ed. Christina Rozeik (University of Cambridge Museums, 2018), pp. 109-121.