New crime-fighting tools aim to deter and nab terrorists

February 8, 2012

Fingerprints, ballistics, DNA analysis and other mainstays of the forensic science toolkit may get a powerful new crime-solving companion as scientists strive to develop technology for "fingerprinting" and tracing the origins of chemical substances that could be used in terrorist attacks and other criminal acts. That's the topic of the cover story in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Bethany Halford, C&EN senior editor, focuses on an emerging field known as chemical forensics, where the goal is to use the technology of chemistry to trace weaponized toxic substances and related materials back to their source. A chemical forensic analysis could, for instance, show that ingredients in a terrorist's weapon were produced in a specific factory. Criminal investigators then could check sales records to determine exactly who purchased those ingredients.

The article explains that the research in the field has expanded substantially during the last few years due mainly to funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chemical Forensics Program. With this research, DHS and chemical forensic scientists are sending messages to the public and to would-be terrorists, the article notes. DHS wants the public to know that the agency is preparing for future attacks, and terrorists to be aware that science is preparing to nab them if they do attack.

Explore further: CSI fact catching up with fiction as chemists develop new technology

More information: Tracing A Threat -

Related Stories

Tracking down the human 'odorprint'

October 14, 2009

Each of the 6.7 billion people on Earth has a signature body odor -- the chemical counterpart to fingerprints -- and scientists are tracking down those odiferous arches, loops, and whorls in the "human odorprint" for purposes ...

Scientists are doing their most creative work later in life

December 7, 2011

In another illustration of the contributions older people make to society, an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) describes how older scientists are winning Nobel prizes more often these days ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...

Atom-sized craters make a catalyst much more active

November 24, 2015

Bombarding and stretching an important industrial catalyst opens up tiny holes on its surface where atoms can attach and react, greatly increasing its activity as a promoter of chemical reactions, according to a study by ...


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.