New crime-fighting tools aim to deter and nab terrorists

Feb 08, 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: Wake up and smell the coffee ... it's why your cuppa tastes so good

More information: Tracing A Threat - cen.acs.org/articles/90/i6/Tracing-Threat.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists are doing their most creative work later in life

Dec 07, 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 d ...

Tracking down the human 'odorprint'

Oct 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 ...

Recommended for you

Triplet threat from the sun

11 hours ago

The most obvious effects of too much sun exposure are cosmetic, like wrinkled and rough skin. Some damage, however, goes deeper—ultraviolet light can damage DNA and cause proteins in the body to break down ...

Towards controlled dislocations

Oct 20, 2014

Crystallographic defects or irregularities (known as dislocations) are often found within crystalline materials. Two main types of dislocation exist: edge and screw type. However, dislocations found in real ...

User comments : 0