Sandblaster helps detect fingerprints extra successfully

Bethany Krebs ‘dusts’ for fingerprints utilizing a sandblaster. Credit score: Bethany Krebs

“Dusting for fingerprints” is a time period we could know properly from crime exhibits, but when Bethany Krebs has her manner, forensic groups would as a substitute be “sandblasting for fingerprints.”

The fourth-year Forensic Science pupil at U of T Mississauga has carried out experiments exhibiting abrasive blasting of a specialised powder over a floor is more practical at revealing fingerprints than the traditional dusting technique. Accomplished for her Superior Unbiased Challenge course, her examine additionally discovered this revolutionary technique to be extra environment friendly and economical.

“This has the potential to be a viable various to detecting fingerprints, notably with bigger crime scenes the place there are time and useful resource constraints,” says Krebs, who’s finishing her double main in forensics and criminology this spring.

Sometimes, detecting fingerprints entails utilizing a small makeup-style brush containing mushy camel hair, fiberglass bristles or feathers to softly apply a high-quality powder to a tough floor. The powder is normally made from aluminum, chalk, bronze, graphite or iron, and sometimes accommodates fluorescence to supply a robust distinction within the ensuing finger markings. The powder will stick with any traces of sweat, oil or different pure pores and skin secretions in latent (not seen to the bare eye) prints, revealing a sample of ridges and furrows that’s distinctive to every individual’s fingers.

Whereas this strategy is technically efficient, it’s painstaking, requiring a methodical tempo in to keep away from damaging the fragile fingerprint residue. This could be a sluggish course of, notably when carried out over giant areas, which works towards the crucial of pace that tends to drive crime investigations.

“One of many greatest points is time. When you have a big and complex crime scene, it might take a very long time to brush areas for fingerprints,” says Krebs, who beforehand accomplished two years of a criminology undergraduate diploma at Wilfrid Laurier College. “Additionally, if the comb is just too stiff, otherwise you apply an excessive amount of stress, or the powder shouldn’t be uniformly distributed on the comb, it could possibly injury fingerprints.”

With the steering of professor Wade Knapp and lab technician Agate Gapinska-Serwin, Krebs got down to discover a much less invasive and extra environment friendly technique. First, she obtained samples of six substrates generally present in a house: painted drywall, galvanized metal, handled hardwood, ceramic tile, laminate countertop and glass. She then requested two mates to the touch the substrates, leading to a complete of 144 fingerprints.

Her analysis happened in early February on the Crime Scene Home, a campus facility for practising forensic science investigation and documentation strategies. There, she used a gravity-feed sandblasting gun powered by an air compressor to spray fluorescent yellow cornstarch powder over every pattern. Cornstarch is a confirmed substance for fingerprint growth that’s rather more inexpensive and available than common fingerprint powder, and can be much less poisonous, making it safer for aerosolized utility.

“It comes out as a cloud—it is simply selecting the fingerprints somewhat than being manually utilized. It’s utterly contactless, which means there’s a lot much less potential to break prints,” Krebs says.

She then photographed the fingerprints that appeared and assessed her findings. With this novel technique, 100 of the prints had been totally developed and 10 had been strongly developed, in each circumstances offering sufficient particulars to make an correct identification. The outcomes equated to successful charge of 76 p.c. Krebs is now exploring alternatives to formally publish her analysis.

Finishing the examine affirmed for Krebs what she enjoys most about forensics: the power to use scientific data to assist clear up crimes. “Making a distinction within the lives of people by discovering the reality is what motivates me.”


Illuminating invisible bloody fingerprints with a fluorescent polymer


Offered by
College of Toronto Mississauga


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