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Minimally Invasive Identification of Degraded Polyester-Urethane Magnetic Tape Using Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Multivariate Statistics

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posted on 15.09.2015, 00:00 authored by Brianna M. Cassidy, Zhenyu Lu, Nathan C. Fuenffinger, Samantha M. Skelton, Eric J. Bringley, Linhchi Nguyen, Michael L. Myrick, Eric M. Breitung, Stephen L. Morgan
Audio recordings are a significant component of the world’s modern cultural history and are retained for future generations in libraries, archives, and museums. The vast majority of tapes contain polyester-urethane as the magnetic particle binder, the degradation of which threatens the playability and integrity of these often unique recordings. Magnetic tapes with stored historical data are degrading and need to be identified prior to digitization and/or preservation. We demonstrate the successful differentiation of playable and nonplayable quarter-inch audio tapes, allowing the minimally invasive triage of tape collections. Without such a method, recordings are put at risk during playback, which is the current method for identifying degraded tapes. A total of 133 quarter-inch audio tapes were analyzed by attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform-infrared spectroscopy (ATR FT-IR). Classification of IR spectra in regards to tape playability was accomplished using principal component analysis (PCA) followed by quadratic discriminant analysis (QDA) and K-means cluster analysis. The first principal component suggests intensities at the following wavenumbers to be representative of nonplayable tapes: 1730 cm–1, 1700 cm–1, 1255 cm–1, and 1140 cm–1. QDA and cluster analysis both successfully identified 93.78% of nonplayable tapes in the calibration set and 92.31% of nonplayable tapes in the test set. This application of IR spectra assessed with multivariate statistical analysis offers a path to greatly improve efficiency of audio tape preservation. This rapid, minimally invasive technique shows potential to replace the manual playback test, a potentially destructive technique, ultimately allowing the safe preservation of culturally valuable content.

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