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New forensics tool leaves old fingerprinting in the dust


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Crime scene investigators have been dusting for fingerprints for over a century. The technique has been very successful, but there is another technique that will make it quicker and easier to get a criminal’s fingerprints.


Dr. Kang Liang, an Australian researcher, has developed a new process to obtain fingerprints at a crime scene. The process makes fingerprints glow under Ultraviolet light within 30 seconds, which would speed up the time it takes to obtain fingerprints at crime scenes.

According to the Daily Mirror, Dr. Liang’s technology uses a liquid that contains tiny crystals. When the liquid is painted on surfaces, it picks out details of fingerprints on a molecular level.


The metal organic framework crystals in the liquid are cheap; they react quickly once applied on a surface, and emit a bright light when exposed to UV light.

This luminescent effect that the crystals create makes it easier for investigators to quickly photograph fingerprints from a crime scene and send them to the lab for further investigation.

Dr. Liang believes that his technology can be used for more challenging situations where conventional fingerprint dusting doesn’t work.

“While police and forensics experts use a range of different techniques, sometimes in complex cases evidence needs to be sent off to a lab where heat and vacuum treatment is applied,” he explained.

“Our method reduces these steps, and because it’s done on the spot, a digital device could be used at the scene to capture images of the glowing fingerprints to run through the database in real time.”

Dr. Liang’s study, which was published in the Advanced Materials journal, shows that the tiny crystals quickly bind to fingerprint residue, which includes salts, fatty acids, and proteins, creating a very thin coating that’s an exact replica of the fingerprint pattern.

“Because it works at a molecular level it’s very precise and lowers the risk of damaging the print,” Liang said. He also said that once a print has been revealed, the liquid helps to preserve it.

“In our lab, it stayed for up to three months, and the pattern was still very fine.”

The technology has proven to be effective when tested on surfaces like windows, wine glasses, plastics, and metals. However, Liang is still working on making it possible to lift fingerprints from materials like fabric and paper.

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