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Development of next-generation fingermark lifters and on-the-spot visualization devices

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $628,327)

As submitted by the proposer:

Latent fingermark detection and identification remains a cornerstone of forensic science due to the ease and high volume of recovery, rapid turn-around time from crime scene to identifications (compared to DNA), and an ability to be exploited for forensic intelligence or court-driven investigation. While traditional fingermark detection techniques such as powdering, cyanoacrylate fuming, blood enhancement reagents, and chemical detection methods for paper substrates are established methods for visualization of latent fingermarks on simple low background substrates, a number of substrates such as highly reflective, patterned, luminescent, reactive or textured substrates pose a problem for capturing clear images of the enhanced fingermarks. Moreover, all these techniques require time and expertise to implement, and/or leave a visible record of their application, making them unsuitable for covert detection during intelligence and counter-terrorism operations or deployment at rapid-response scenes. This is especially true for porous surfaces that have to be removed from the scene and transported back to the laboratory for treatment.

Consequently, novel methods that solve these problems are needed. However, recent research on new fingermark technologies tends to focus on increasingly niche or high-end (i.e., expensive) instrumental analysis that is not likely to be readily translated to routine operations and often requires experienced operators to obtain usable results. Furthermore, such methods heavily rely on laboratory processes that are slow and costly, especially for exhibits with porous surfaces. This is at odds with the need for effective detection methods that can be easily deployed and upscaled in order to cope with casework demands.

This project, in contrast, aims at generating and validating novel and user-friendly lifter-based fingermark detection devices that will be applicable in standard police work (i.e., at crime scenes and in police laboratories), as well as in counter terrorism and covert operations. The development of these lifters will build upon previous work by the research team, and its expertise in assay development, fingermark detection and forensic science.

The lifters will be evaluated first under laboratory and then under pseudo-operational conditions, following advice by our partner organizations (The United States Secret Service, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Forensic Science Service, and Elite Forensic Services), and using standard evaluative practices by the International Fingerprint Research Group.

Results from this study will be disseminated through traditional scholarly products, presentations at national and international conferences, workshops, and relevant professional and trade newsletters.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: September 29, 2017