Outsmarting light-fingered criminals

University of Sunderland researchers are working on a technique that will provide clearer and more detailed fingerprints.

The powder currently used by police works by adhering to the oil left on surfaces by fingers, but the images produced can sometimes be indistinct.

The team at the school of Health, Natural and Social Sciences are using nanoscale glass spheres between 200 and 600 nanometres in diameter which not only contain a fluorescent dye for extra clarity but are also coated with hydrophobic molecules.

These are repelled by water and attracted to oily substances – fixing the spheres tightly to the fingerprint.

Team leader Professor Fred Rowell said: ‘The nanoparticles should pick out even the faintest of prints because they are able to stick to tiny traces of oil. They should be much sharper, with finer details which could be crucial to identifying a print.’

The research, which is still in its early stages, was presented to police officials at the Nanotechnology in Crime Prevention and Detection conference, a 2-day event that examines opportunities in nanotechnology that may change the way crime prevention and detection is approached.

For more information on the October 2003 conference, click <a href=’http://www.nano.org.uk/crime.htm’>here</a>.