Fingerprint analysis has been used to identify suspects since the late nineteenth century by Police departments around the world. With today’s modern technology, the Police and forensic scientists still can’t reconstruct a smudged print though. Also the Fingerprint patterns are also of little or no use when the suspect is not even in the database!

With these issues surrounding the use of fingerprint analysis in mind, a pilot study in the UK has been unveiled that has the potential to gather a large amount of new information from a fingerprint, from gender recognition to what the suspect has eaten.

Mass Spectrometry Analysis

This new research is being conducted by scientists at Sheffield Hallam University, who are working closely with the West Yorkshire Police Department. The researchers are interested in what substances may have been on the suspect’s fingers when the print was left at the scene. Tiny traces of proteins and pharmacological compounds are capable of being identified using the team’s mass spectrometer.

Mass spectrometry is a process that sorts the molecules, which are present in a sample by mass, technically known as; mass to charge ratio. The process involves ionizing the sample and then accelerating the molecules in a magnetic field obtains the chemical signature of it. The output can then tell the team what mixture of proteins was excreted through the skin to determine the gender of the person or the presence of certain diseases. Pharmaceuticals and certain foods may be detected in the subject’s system by searching for traces in the fingerprints.

Neil Denison, lead scientist, says the study is producing results with the necessary level of accuracy that can be used in criminal investigations.  Further testing will be required before this kind of fingerprint examination will be officially recognized as evidence in court. Neil Denison thinks that it may happen in the next few years, but it will not be used often due to costs, as mass spectrometry is much more expensive than normal fingerprint analysis, so it will probably only be used to solve major offences.

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[Image via laboratoryequipment]