University Products is marketing a lignin indicating pen for $6.95, which makes a mark that turns bright orange when the paper contains 0.5% lignin, according to the UP catalog for 2000 AD (received September 2). There is no information on what indicator it contains. Of the spot tests for lignin that are described in the AIC Book & Paper Group's Paper Catalog, the one that seems the most similar to the one in the pen is P-nitroaniline.
Some of the twenty paper samples in the Abbey Publications office, gathered for another testing project, turned the expected color, but two that were hard sized barely reacted at all, though they contained lignin. One that was 40% BCTMP (bleached chemithermomechanical pulp) gave a color that indicated 0.1% lignin, which is a little hard to believe.
The preservation community needs more information about this handy test pen, which is bound to be widely used. We need to know how accurate it is when used on papers made with various pulps, and for indicating lignin of different sorts.
The effect on the paper market will be significant, because most purchasers will not question results; for them, the less lignin in the paper, the better. However, if the pen is accurate, customers will reject most papers that meet the NISO paper permanence standard, Z39.48, which specifies a maximum lignin content of 1%. This is an opportunity for a little analytical work with papers of known lignin content. Volunteers?