New liquid will make a fingerprint glow at a crime scene in 30 seconds

22 Oct 2015

The glowing fingerprint under UV light. Image via CSIRO

Technology at a crime scene could be about to get even more high tech with the development of a new fingerprint detection liquid that will make them glow after just 30 seconds.

Developed by Australian scientists, the fingerprint detection liquid has a largely crystalline structure that clings to surfaces, which, once seen under a UV light, reveals the fingerprints in stark detail at a much faster rate than dusting, which has been in use for more than 100 years.

In fact, the tiny crystals in the liquid rapidly bind to fingerprint residue, including proteins, peptides, fatty acids and salts, which creates an ultra-thin coating to replicate the fingerprint pattern.

Publishing its findings in Advanced Materials, the team led by Dr Kang Liang said that the dusting that is used for current fingerprinting techniques might not be appropriate for every situation.

“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,” Dr Liang said.

“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.”

The team based in the Australian research lab CSIRO tested the method on non-porous surfaces, including window and wine glass, metal blades and plastic light switches, all of which proved successful.

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

“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.”

Liang and his team also believe that its applications could stretch beyond fingerprint identification and into new biomedical devices and methods of drug delivery.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic