Feeds

Scientists force confessions from mucky fingerprints

No more clean getaways

The next step in data security

Wannabe criminals would do well to listen to their dear old ma's and wash their hands regularly, or PC Plod will be knocking on the door in double quick time*.

According to boffins at London's Imperial College, minute traces of chemicals are left behind in our fingerprints that could be very useful to police trying to track down a suspect.

The technique could help investigators find out about the crims' diet and race, the scientists claim, as well as identifying traces of dodgy items like explosives, narcotics, and so on.

In addition, the researchers say relatively large quantities of urea in the residue indicate that the fingerprints are from a man. Smaller traces indicate a woman. [Or someone who shakes hands with lots of men perhaps. Like the Queen? Ed]

Conventional fingerprint collection tends to destroy the tiny traces of chemicals we leave behind every time we touch something. But the researchers at Imperial found that using an ordinary gelatine based tape allowed them to lift and preserve this chemical fingerprint.

The prints are then analysed in a spectroscopic microscope to reveal the particular chemical profile associated with the print.

Research leader Professor Sergei Kazarian says the work could help investigators working on difficult cases like arson, where fingerprints are particularly hard to lift.

"By focusing on what is left in a fingerprint after periods of time, scientists could potentially gauge how old a crime scene is. Studying what happens to prints when they are exposed to high temperatures could also be particularly significant," he said.

Kazarian says he sees a role for the technique in the courtrooms of the future. At the time of press he could not be reached for further comment on the precision of identification that the chemicals could provide, and how researchers would distinguish between substances a person had excreted, vs external contamination.

*It probably wouldn't help, We're talking tiny traces here. Sorry. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.