Researchers from the University of Nottingham and the University of Derby have developed a new technique for reading fingerprints left on metal surfaces like guns and knives. The method uses Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy, and creates high-resolution images that are so accurate that researchers were able to see individual sweat pores up to 26 days after the fingerprint impression was first made.
The breakthrough offers a significant improvement over traditional fingerprinting methods, which can be highly unreliable outside of a relatively short window, especially when pulling prints from metal surfaces. Environmental factors usually lead to the rapid degradation of a fingerprint, which can be unrecognizable in as little as three days to existing technology.
“This raises the possibility of being able to reliably visualise fingerprints on surfaces previously thought to be devoid of such crucial evidence,” said Dr. James Sharp, a member of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham and the head of the research.
While other researchers have developed better fingerprint matching algorithms, this research will allow forensic scientists to collect better samples. The new technique is already drawing the attention of detectives, who will be able to generate usable forensic evidence during their investigations.
It also comes as a bit of welcome news while UK forensic labs are scrambling to meet a missed accreditation deadline.
March 21, 2019 – by Eric Weiss