Australia breakthrough on recovering old fingerprints

Close-up of a fingerprint Nanotechnology picks up traces of amino acids missed by previous techniques

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Australian researchers have developed a new way of recovering usable fingerprints from old evidence.

The scientists, at the University of Technology in Sydney, believe it is a world first, that could help police reopen unsolved cases.

They used nanotechnology to detect dry and weak fingerprints, which are not revealed by traditional techniques.

Nanotechnology reveals much sharper detail of amino acid traces from old fingerprints than existing methods.

Their aim is to detect fingerprints of any age on any surface.

Specimens that previously went unseen are now being revealed using new chemical treatments that target amino acids.

These are molecules commonly found in sweat and are therefore present in most fingerprints.

While the targeting of amino acids in this area has been used for decades, the researchers in Sydney are employing nanotechnology to give degraded samples sharper detail.

Great goal

"If we get something that does work really well and is able to enhance prints on old evidence there is always that potential to use it for cold cases and things like that and for older evidence that may have been laying around for quite a while," says Dr Xanthe Spindler.

"So I think this is something that is really going to push the boundaries, and will hopefully get more fingerprints, better fingerprints and hopefully improve case-solving success rates."

The research is continuing and Dr Spindler says it is an important step forward in efforts to conquer one of the great goals of forensic science - to recover fingerprints from human skin.

The project is a collaboration between academics in Sydney and Canberra, the Australian Federal Police and Northern Illinois University in the United States.

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