"As prints dry or age, the common techniques used to develop latent fingerprints, such as dusting or cyanoacrylate -- SuperGlue -- fuming often fail," said Robert Shaler, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of Penn State's forensic sciences program.
This happens because most of the techniques currently used for developing fingerprints rely on the chemistry of the print. Fingerprints are made up of a mixture of secretions from the body that reacts with different chemicals to form a visible or fluorescent product. Infrared and x-ray imaging also target specific chemicals left behind by the ridges and valleys in the skin.
"Lots and lots of processes take advantage of the chemistry of fingerprints," said Shaler. "This approach looks at the geometry of the fingerprints."
The conformal coating applications suggested by Shaler and Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Charles Godfrey Binder Professor in engineering science and mechanics, use the physical properties of the fingerprint, not the chemistry of the substances left behind. In fact, the researchers believe that even after the fingerprints are developed using the coating, forensics experts could sample the fingerprint material to determine specifics about the person who left the prints.
"The body chemistry of the person who left the fingerprint can tell us some things," said Shaler. "If the suspect is older or younger or a lactating mother, for example."
The researchers used a form of physical vapor deposition -- a method that uses a vacuum and allows vaporized materials to condense on a surface creating a thin film. Normally, the deposition process requires exceptionally clean surfaces because any speck of dust or grease on the coated surface shows up as a deformity. However, with fingerprints, the point is to have the surface material's ridges and valleys -- topography -- show up on the new surface so analysts can read them using an optical device without the necessity of chemical development or microscopy.
"This approach allows us to look at the topography better and to look at the chemistry later," said Shaler. "We wouldn't have thought of this by ourselves, but we could do it together."
One benefit of this approach would be the ability to retrieve fingerprints off fragments from incendiary or explosive devices and still be able to analyze the chemicals used in the device.
The specific method used is a conformal-evaporated-film-by-rotation technique developed to create highly accurate copies of biological templates such as insect eyes or butterfly wings. Both are surfaces that have nanoscale variations.
"It is a very simple process," said Lakhtakia. "And fingerprints are not nanoscale objects, so the conformal coating is applied to something big by nanotechnology standards."
The researchers tested two materials for coating, magnesium flouride and chalcogenide glass -- a combination of germanium, antimony and selenium. The coating material is heated in a vacuum, while the artifact to be coated is rotated fairly quickly to allow deposition over the entire surface.
"We need to have a coating that is uniform as far as we can see," said Lakhtakia. "But we do not need much of a coating -- in the range of only a micron."
The researchers tried coating a variety of fingerprints on glass and even on tape. They coated pristine fingerprints and those that had been fumed with SuperGlue. In all cases, the coated fingerprints were usable.
Of course, like all approaches, this one can only be used on non-porous surfaces, surfaces that do not de-gas. The equipment used to deposit the coating is a laboratory device, but it can produce the coating in about 15 minutes. The researchers would like to design a portable device that could be brought to a crime scene and produce readable fingerprints on site.
"We are in the process of redesigning the chamber and looking not just at fingerprints, but at other objects," said Lakhtakia. "These would include bullets, cartridges, footprints, bite marks and lip impressions." Shaler and Lakhtakia have filed a provisional patent application on this application.
A'ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona
Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research