Forensic technology making it impossible to destroy fingerprint evidence

New forensic technology created by scientists at Loughborough University will make it “impossible” for criminals to erase their fingerprints from crime scenes.

two students in a lab
Forensic scientists have previously been faced with the challenge of taking prints from problematic exhibits, such as spent ammunition casings. Loughborough has developed an advanced detection technique to overcome this, together with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) – an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence – and the Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology.
 
The innovation, which uses a chemical to uncover fingerprints, will make it far easier for police to recover impressions from previously challenging crime scenes involving materials subjected to high temperatures or immersed in water, or prints left on deformed surfaces. It also has the potential for major advancements in forensic science.
 
Dr Paul Kelly, Deputy Head of Department and Reader in Inorganic Chemistry, began working on the project seven years ago alongside PhD student Rob King, who is now a research and development applications specialist for forensic company Foster and Freeman (F&F), the company that is making the technology commercially available.

The whole process, up until now, has been developed here at Loughborough, from its initial serendipitous observations through to prototyping. Now Foster and Freeman will refine the technology for commercial use.

Dr Paul Kelly

The success of the original work has led to the research group investigating other methods of print development, analysis of bodily fluids at crime scenes and the use computational chemistry to design new forensic techniques.