Fingerprint analysis technique could be used to identify bombmakers

August 26, 2008

University of Leicester experts have held discussions with military personnel in Afghanistan following the discovery of new technology to identify fingerprints on metal.

Dr John Bond, a forensic research scientist at the University of Leicester and scientific support manager at Northamptonshire Police, has worked with a team from the University Department of Chemistry to develop the novel technique.

The state-of-the-art forensic method that can identify fingerprints on bullets could now be used on bombs. The new techniques can pick up fingerprints on metal even after they have been wiped off.

After the research was published earlier this year, Dr Bond has been approached by military personnel in Afghanistan to discuss potential use of the technique.

Dr Bond is investigating whether the technique can be used to find prints on roadside bombs. It would mean recovered fragments of bombs could be tested for prints put on it while it was manufactured.

Dr Bond said " We have developed a method that enables us to 'visualise fingerprints' even after the print itself has been removed. We conducted a study into the way fingerprints can corrode metal surfaces. The technique can enhance – after firing– a fingerprint that has been deposited on a small calibre metal cartridge case before it is fired.

"For the first time we can get prints from people who handled a cartridge before it was fired. Wiping it down, washing it in hot soapy water makes no difference - and the heat of the shot helps the process we use.

"The procedure works by applying an electric charge to a metal - say a gun or bullet - which has been coated in a fine conducting powder, similar to that used in photocopiers.

"Even if the fingerprint has been washed off, it leaves a slight corrosion on the metal and this attracts the powder when the charge is applied, so showing up a residual fingerprint.

"The technique works on everything from bullet casings to machine guns. Even if heat vaporises normal clues, police will be able to prove who handled a particular gun."

Dr Bond said they had found the method worked well on certain metals including brass which is often used for bullet casing.

Source: University of Leicester

Explore further: Physicists observe the alignment of water dipoles for the first time

Related Stories

A new way to display the 3-D structure of molecules

August 18, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have created a sort of nanoscale display case that enables new atomic-scale views of hard-to-study chemical and ...

New Fingerprint Breakthrough by Forensic Scientists

June 2, 2008

Forensic scientists at the University of Leicester, working with Northamptonshire Police, have announced a major breakthrough in crime detection which could lead to hundreds of cold cases being reopened.

Recommended for you

How Frankenstein saved humankind from probable extinction

October 28, 2016

Frankenstein as we know him, the grotesque monster that was created through a weird science experiment, is actually a nameless Creature created by scientist Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, "Frankenstein." ...

Self-sealing syringe prevents blood loss in hemophilic mice

October 28, 2016

(—For people whose blood does not clot appropriately, such as those with hemophilia, diabetes, or cancer, getting an injection or blood draw with a hypodermic needle is not a trivial matter. Because the needle ...

Closer look reveals tubule structure of endoplasmic reticulum

October 28, 2016

(—A team of researchers from the U.S. and the U.K. has used high-resolution imaging techniques to get a closer look at the endoplasmic reticulum (ET), a cellular organelle, and in so doing, has found that its structure ...

Changing semiconductor properties at room temperature

October 28, 2016

It's a small change that makes a big difference. Researchers have developed a method that uses a one-degree change in temperature to alter the color of light that a semiconductor emits. The method, which uses a thin-film ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.