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New tech reveals fingerprint's chemical makeup
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11:32, August 08, 2008

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U.S. researchers have developed a new technique for analyzing fingerprints that reveals, in high detail, the chemical compounds that make up the print.

Researchers from Purdue University reported the detail of their new tech on Thursday in the Aug. 8 issue of Science.

This method can be used directly on a fingerprint, right where it is found, without the need to lift the print off and take it to a lab for analysis. It can also help distinguish among overlapping prints.

The researchers reported that they used a technique called desorption electrospray ionization, or DESI, which involves spraying a solvent onto a fingerprinted surface and then analyzing the droplets that scatter off the print. The technique provides a "chemical image" of the fingerprint with higher resolution than other techniques, allowing researchers to detect minute traces of compounds that were on the fingertips of the person who left the print.

The image can also be analyzed with standard fingerprint imaging software to try and identify that person. On the forensics front, this technique can pick up small amounts of drugs like cocaine or THC from marijuana, as well as compounds from explosives.

Biomedical researchers may also find this technique useful for identifying metabolites or other compounds in fingertip secretions, whose presence may signal other processes happening inside the body, said the authors.  


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