Instant, accurate, fumeless, latent fingerprint detection

Nanoparticles and broadband optics offer an improvement over current techniques


Current methods of detecting latent fingerprints rely on older fuming techniques which require a special humidity controlled chamber that limits the object size, requires power, and is difficult to field. Additionally, this method takes up to 24 hours and requires special operator skills to properly develop prints. Traditionally, fresh fingerprints (measured in hours) are detected by dusting with a powder that contrasts in color to the background. Older, latent fingerprints (days to weeks) are detected by a developing process using noxious chemicals. The reaction typically uses superglue vapors heated in a sealed chamber to react with fingerprint residues in a complicated process.

Acting in quick response to an urgent need by the U.S. Special Operations Forces, Navy researchers developed a smart powder that revolutionizes all of this and requires no chambers. Detection can be done easily in the open air in seconds. The new smart powders specifically/chemically bind to fingerprint residues. A solid-state reaction (as opposed to fuming gas or applying liquid) significantly reduces operator error and enhances ease of use. For one application, the Department of Defense needed to get quick prints off of improvised explosive devices in the field. Likewise, for technology transfer applications, this technology allows forensic units to quickly take prints from large and fixed items in the field, such as automotive doors and trunks, office windows, and elevators. In many cases, these items would need to be removed and physically taken to a lab in order to obtain highly accurate results.

The invention adds the chemistry of fuming superglue to a powder that can be applied by simply dusting. The powder chemically reacts with fingerprint residues in a manner similar to fuming superglue but requires no special chamber, heat, or fumes. This simplified method allows large objects to be checked for prints in the field and provides for fluorescence detection under ultraviolet light. Prints are also visible with white light, so a digital camera flash will enable a detailed print to be captured electronically. The new method detects level 3 details, such as skin pores, and is shown to be effective on latent fingerprints as old as 30 days. In addition, it is superior to current commercial powders in response to stresses resulting from rough handling. Prints dusted with the new powder can withstand temperature changes, water exposure, and light rubbing. It has unlimited applications for detecting finger, nose, and paw prints for crime scene evidence collection and military applications.

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