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Aspects of Physiochemical Methods for the Detection of Latent Fingerprints

NCJ Number
Journal of Physics E Scientific Instruments Volume: 11 Issue: 8 Dated: (August 1978) Pages: 713-721
A M Knowles
Date Published
9 pages
This paper reviews physiochemical methods of detecting latent fingerprints on a wide range of materials commonly found at the crime scenes, with particular emphasis on the newer autoradiographic techniques.
An overview of the fundamental nature of a latent fingerprint covers classification of fingerprint patterns and the chemical composition of the deposit that constitutes the fingerprint -- sweat usually contaminated by extraneous materials picked up from the environment. Levels of more abundant chemicals in sweat and changes in concentrations over time are listed. Studies on amino acids and lipids are also summarized. Because diverse surfaces are encountered in casework, a wide range of selective techniques to detect fingerprints should be available. The discussion of techniques to reveal latent fingerprints first surveys the history of latent fingerprint reagents and then examines autoradiographic procedures using either labeled trace elements in chemical reagents or neutron activation. Research studies concerning both approaches are described, as are limitations on neutron activation. Methods for detecting latent fingerprints on human skin are presented, although there is no record of their successful application in casework. Investigations into the use of radioisotopic methods for revealing latent fingerprints have increased the potential for finding prints left by a criminal, but much work remains to be done before these techniques become routine practice. Photographs, drawings, and tables are provided, along with approximately 50 references. (Author abstract modified)