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Security Crystals: NIR-To-NIR Upconverting Nanoparticles for Fingerprint Identification and DNA Extraction

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $841,307)

As submitted by the proposer:

The goal of the proposed research is to develop a safe, cost-effective portable field system for sensitive, interference-free latent fingerprint identification and DNA extraction. The system will be based on near infrared (NIR)-to-NIR upconversion luminescence from optimized nanoparticles (UCNPs), and be capable of capturing highly-resolved fingerprint images under full ambient lighting, even on highly-fluorescent surfaces. In addition, the nanoparticles will be functionalized to extract DNA from fingerprints.

The proposed project builds upon significant prior team success in using upconverting nanoparticles for security printing applications. A systems approach will be applied throughout the entire design and implementation process. The interdisciplinary project team, from the base disciplines of chemistry, materials science, and computer science, is assembled from faculty at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and the University of South Dakota. Project team members have a long track record of successful collaboration, publication, funding, and technology transfer through the Center for Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology (C-SPACT). Specifically, C-SPACT has highly relevant experience in transitioning nanotechnologies to security-end products.

The overall goal of this project will be met by achieving the following objectives: a) optimize UCNP synthesis, scale-up and particle-surface modification for NIR-to-NIR fingerprint imaging and DNA extraction; b) develop UCNP transfer procedures to minimize the airborne transport of nanoparticles; c) develop DNA isolation and amplification methods; d) use statistical methods to evaluate UCNP fingerprint imaging against standard procedures; and d) develop an optical-capture/image-processing device for implementation of a complete field system.

The proposed NIR-to-NIR UCNP system represents a paradigm advancement in latent fingerprint analysis compared to standard techniques, particularly for analysis of surfaces, such as pop cans and thermal paper, which exhibit strong intrinsic fluorescence. Recently, NIR-to-visible upconversion techniques for fingerprint imaging have been developed for use on highly-fluorescent surfaces, but these techniques suffer from low-sensitivity, disappointing image quality, and susceptibility to interference from ambient light.

The proposed system uses optimized NIR-to-NIR UCNP which are more than 10 times brighter than the brightest of the NIR-to-visible UCNP previously applied to fingerprint imaging. Moreover, the NIR-to-NIR technique permits interference-free imaging in full ambient lighting. Finally, the dedicated optical-capture/image-processing system will greatly improve the image quality relative to that previously observed using systems which were not optimized for the capture of UC luminescent images. The project will also explore the use of UCNP surface modification for selective binding to of DNA such that fingerprint analysis can be combined with efficient DNA extraction.

The proposed project will provide a portable field system for use by forensic scientists and field agents, who require customized, innovative products that offer a competitive advantage in operational settings.

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