This newsletter brief summarizes Ryan Tomcik’s, the International Association for Identification’s NIJ liason, interview with Dr. Ming Su of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute concerning his NIJ-funded research on covert metal nanoparticles and the potential benefits they may provide to crime scene investigators. These covert metal nanoparticles, a class of molecular taggants, are physical or chemical markers, such as microfibers, microscopic labels and security inks, that are currently employed in anti-counterfeiting measures. The analysis of statistically unique taggants in forensic science is a fundamental idea with respect to the interpretation of trace evidence that is collected from crime scenes and, it is Dr. Su’s belief, that taggant analysis could potentially become as accurate a measurement as DNA analysis. Dr. Su, a materials science and engineering Ph.D. with experience in nanotechnology and nanomedicine, has evolved his research interest into a new type of nanomaterials. Called phase change materials (PCM), these nanomaterials change their phases from solid to liquid at melting temperatures and could be assembled to form a new type of barcode system that will have extremely high capacity.
Dr. Su’s project, Encapsulated Phase Change Nanoparticles as Thermally-Readable Covert Taggants, is being funded under NIJ award number 2012-DN-BX-K021.