• formic acid;
  • mass spectrometry;
  • molecular weight distribution;
  • poly (ethylene glycol)


The distribution and ageing of polyethylene glycol (PEG) in the Vasa warship has been examined and compared with other archaeological shipwrecks which have also been impregnated with PEG. The distribution of the PEG has been characterised using a variety of mass spectrometric and FT-IR techniques. Our results show that the PEG after 30 years is still in a reasonably good condition, with a molecular weight distribution that resembles fresh PEG. Only minor levels of degradation products were found. It seems that the PEG preserved wood contains an increased amount of formic acid and the results suggest that it originates from the PEG. Acetic acid is also present; this probably originates from the wood.