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Fingerprint Chemistry

August 22, 2007

There’s more to fingerprints than meets the eye.


A new twist on fingerprinting. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When it comes to fingerprints, looks aren’t everything: What’s inside them matters too. This according to physical chemist Sergei Kazarian of Imperial College, London. His team has developed a way to analyze chemical deposits in fingerprints. These can include skin secretions that indicate a person’s sex, or residues of substances he or she recently handled.

SERGEI KAZARIAN (Imperial College London):
So combining physical and chemical information allows us to maximize information about a particular individual, which could be, for example, a particular suspect.

Such information would be especially useful when only partial or illegible prints are available, or when there’s no obvious suspect to check the prints against. Kazarian says the technique could also reveal the age of the prints themselves, and therefore when a crime occurred. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.