​Fingerprint ID breakthrough could aid police say CSIRO

Adding metal organic framework crystals to surfaces means invisible fingerprints `glow’ and can be photographed

Invisible fingerprints on knives show up when crystals are applied to the surface. Photo credit: CSIRO.

Invisible fingerprints on knives show up when crystals are applied to the surface. Photo credit: CSIRO.

A house burglary prompted CSIRO materials scientist Doctor Kang Liang to come up with a method of identifying invisible fingerprints which could be used by law enforcement agencies.

Adding a drop of liquid which contains crystals to surfaces means forensic investigators who use a UV light can see invisible fingerprints `glow.’

According to Liang, the luminescent effect creates contrast between the fingerprint and surface which allows higher resolution photos to be taken for analysis.

He said the technique could be used for more challenging evidence where conventional ‘dusting’ is not appropriate.

“While police and forensics experts use a range of different techniques, sometimes in complex cases evidence needs to be sent off to a lab where heat and vacuum treatment is applied.”

“Our method reduces these steps, and because it’s done on the spot, a digital device could be used at the scene to capture images of the glowing prints to run through the database in real time,” he said.

CSIRO researchers tested the method on surfaces including window and wine glass, metal blades and plastic light switches, with successful results.

“When my house was broken into I saw how common practice fingerprinting is for police,” said Liang.

“Knowing that dusting has been around for a long time, I was inspired to see how new innovative materials could be applied to create even better results.

“As far as we know, it’s the first time that these extremely porous metal organic framework (MOF) crystals have been researched for forensics.”

MOF crystals have a number of benefits in that they are cheap, react quickly and can emit a bright light. The technique doesn’t create any dust or fumes, reducing waste and risk of inhalation.

Liang added that CSIRO is now looking to partner with law enforcement agencies to apply the technique.

The research was published in the Advanced Materials journal today.

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