Scientists discover faster, safer method for analyzing forensic fingerprints

By on October 20, 2015

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA Р Australian scientists have created a new method of uncovering invisible fingerprints, in a find that could make forensic analysis a quicker and easier process.

Published in the Advanced Materials journal on Tuesday, scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found that by adding a drop of liquid containing crystals to surfaces, forensic investigators were able to use a UV light to see fingerprints “glow” within 30 seconds.

The effect creates a high-contrast print that allows investigators to take high-resolution photographs of the fingerprints, meaning an easier and “more precise analysis.”

CSIRO materials scientist Dr. Kang Liang said on Tuesday that the discovery could be used for more challenging when “dusting for prints” was not “appropriate”.

He also said the method would “save valuable time, costs and enhance investigations” when compared with the more traditional method.

“While police and forensics experts use a range of different techniques, sometimes in complex cases evidence needs to be sent off to a lab where heat and vacuum treatment is applied,” Liang said in a statement.

“Our method reduces these steps, and because it’s done on the spot, a digital device could be used at the scene to capture images of the glowing prints to run through the database in real time.”

The study undertaken by the CSIRO determined that tiny crystals attach themselves to the fingerprint residue, forming an “ultrathin coating” that is an exact replica of the fingerprint pattern left behind.

Liang said as it was such a precise method of uncovering prints, it was extremely safe for investigators to use, and the print is less likely to be damaged when compared to the dusting method.

“Because it works at a molecular level it’s very precise and lowers the risk of damaging the print,” Liang said.