Sunday, July 22, 2007

ID Gel Tape Approach Grabs More Than Just Fingerprint

Gelatin tape can be used to collect fingerprints and "chemically photograph" them using highly sensitive instruments for chemical analysis. Image Exhibit Credit: Sergei Kazarian et al.

ID Gel Tape Approach Grabs More Than Just Fingerprint
A Breakthrough In CSI

Ones hands can tell a lot about people and their habits. Human hands can and do get into everything … they sense touch, temperature, texture, aid in the sense of smell, and can get into and be directed to places and situations where virtually no other body part can go.

Lately, crime scene investigators have been given a new tool on which one can investigate and exploit the dynamic nature of the hand.

For years, the fingerprint from the Hand was the main information that was important to an investigation … who was here? Modern investigators, however, want to know more … a lot more!

With this new tool, ID Gel Tape, investigators now are able to gather not just the ridges and patterns that are the fingerprint … they are able to grab and analyze the material that is held within the ridges and patterns and develop a greater information profile on the person the fingerprint belonged to.

This from LiveScience (HT: Yahoo! News) –

New Fingerprint Technique Could Reveal Diet, Sex, Race
Charles Q. Choi - Special to LiveScience, - Fri Jul 20, 3:55 PM ET

A victim might not care if a murderer is a smoker or a vegetarian. But having such knowledge could help police solve a case. Details like this could one day be at their fingertips if a new fingerprinting technique pans out as expected.

Standard methods for collecting
fingerprints at crime scenes, which involve powders, liquids or vapors, can alter the prints and erase valuable forensic clues, including traces of chemicals that might be in the prints.

Now researchers find tape made from gelatin could enable forensics teams to chemically analyze prints gathered at crime scenes, yielding more specific information about miscreants' diets and even possibly their gender and race.

Nimble technique

The gel tape can gather prints from a variety of surfaces, including door handles, mug handles, curved glass and computer screens, just as conventional fingerprint techniques can. The gelatin is then irradiated with infrared rays inside a highly sensitive instrument that rapidly takes a kind of "chemical photograph," identifying molecules within the print in 30 seconds or less, said physical chemist Sergei Kazarian at Imperial College London.

Fingerprints contain just a few millionths of a gram of fluid, or roughly the same amount of material in a grain of sand. That might, however, be enough to determine valuable clues about a person beyond the print itself, such as their gender, race, diet and lifestyle, Kazarian and his colleagues find.

For instance, preliminary results could identify males based on the greater amounts of urea in their fingerprints—urea being the key ingredient of
urine. The complex brew of organic chemicals within prints might also shed light on the age and race of people, and hold traces of items people came into contact with, such as gunpowder, smoke, drugs, explosives, or biological or chemical weapons.

Even a person's diet might be determined from fingerprints, as vegetarians may have different amino acid content than others, Kazarian said.

"More volunteers need to be tested for
statistical information on fingerprints with regard to race, sex and so on, but we believe this will be a powerful tool," he told LiveScience.

Much faster

In addition, unlike conventional fingerprint techniques, the new method did not distort or destroy the original prints, instead keeping them intact and available for further analysis, the researchers said. Their findings are detailed in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Other techniques can analyze chemicals in fingerprints, including methods that
use X-rays. Still, Georgia Tech analytical chemist Facundo Fernandez noted this new technique "is very rapid. You cannot say the same for other approaches." Fernandez was not involved in the current study.

Kazarian said his group's technique is especially good at identifying organic deposits, the main components of fingerprints.
Reference And Additional Story Links Here>>

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