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Posted: July 1, 2007
Nanotechnology fingerprint analysis looks at more than just patterns
(Nanowerk News) Police could use fingerprints to detect if suspects have handled explosives or cocaine in a process being developed by a UK nanotechnology company, Roar Particles. The technique uses nanoparticles coupled with advanced mass spectrometry to change the analysis of fingerprints.
Roar sprang out of nanotechnology developed at the University of Sunderland. Professor Fred Rowell, formerly of the university, is its chief scientific officer.
The company produces a range of particles of defined sizes that are smaller than currently used dusting agents. They have hydrophobic properties which enable them to bind to specific components within a fingerprint. Products include particles with a range of incorporated fluorescent or coloured dyes, and also particles with embedded sub-particles such as metals, metal oxides and carbon.
“The basic technique of dusting fingerprints to identify them has been around for 100 years. Our techniques use nanoparticles to lift trace chemicals from the prints to mine a lot more information about the person who left them. We can tell, for example, if they are using cocaine or prescription drugs, or if they have handled explosives,” he said. If prints also contain minute particles of skin, a full DNA profile of the suspect could be prepared, says Roar's CEO Joe Arend.
The technology is at present on trial with police forces in Singapore and Australia.
Rowell says that the particles are being developed to identify gender, ethnicity and diet.