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New Aussie fingerprint tech to give CSI a run for its money

New Aussie fingerprint tech to give CSI a run for its money

CSIRO has developed a new way of collecting fingerprints that could revolutionise detective work

Straight out of a future CSI episode?

Straight out of a future CSI episode?

CSIRO has developed a new liquid crystal substance that will make fingerprints glow under UV light, a potential boon to crime scene detectives worldwide.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) materials scientist Dr Kang Liang believes the new technique could be used for more challenging evidence where conventional ‘dusting’ is not appropriate. The CSIRO developed technology is a a drop of liquid containing crystals which bind to surfaces, investigators can then use a UV light to see invisible fingerprints which glow after about 30 seconds.

The key advantage of the new technology is that the strong luminescent effect creates a greater contrast between the latent print and the surface, enabling much higher resolution images to be taken for easier and more precise analyses - like something straight out of the popular TV show CSI.

“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,” 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.

“Because it works at a molecular level it’s very precise and lowers the risk of damaging the print."

The tiny crystals resident in the liquid quickly bind to fingerprint residue, including proteins, peptides, fatty acids and salts, creating an ultrathin coating that’s an exact replica of the pattern, the 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.

The method could have other valuable applications including new biomedical devices and drug delivery, and continues the Australian organisation's pedigree of industry leading innovation, such as Aerogard insect repellent, Wi-Fi, plastic banknotes, clear carbon nanotubes and X-Ray phase contrast imaging.

Liang, who had the idea for the technology after his house was broken into, tested the method on nonporous surfaces including window and wine glass, metal blades and plastic light switches, with successful 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."

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Tags CSIROForensicsbiomedicalCSIDr Kang Liang

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