Did you ever play with Day-Glo paint as a kid? Do you remember smooshing your finger prints all over a paper plate to watch them glow? Researchers have just brought the next best thing into your forensic tool-kit and it may soon be helping to solve crimes all over the world. Sadly, the founder of the new technology wasn’t inspired by anything as happy as childhood memories – he was the victim of a break-in. As he watched police fingerprint the scene he began to wonder if there was a better way to lift prints, especially off of surfaces like glass and metal.
The luminescent little wonders are the brain child of Dr. Kang Lang of CISRO in Australia. He achieved the breakthrough by adding tiny liquid-filled crystals to surfaces which contain fingerprints. The crystals then bind onto the fingerprints and about a half a minute later they start to glow brightly under a UV light. The best part about this technology is it’s precision. Every whorl and pattern can be perfectly captured in photos; photos which can then be emailed straight to the lab and compared with the database of known offenders.
Let’s Get Technical:
So, how do the glow-in-the-dark prints really work? The crystals are known as Metal Organic Framework (MOF) and they work by binding to salt, proteins, peptides and fatty-acids within the fingerprint. They don’t alter the print; they just create a neon film overlay which shows up perfectly under a black light. The unique qualities of the MOF crystals cause them to highlight the dominant features of the prints which then show up beautifully on camera. CISRO and Dr. Liang are currently working with law enforcement officials in Australia to implement this technology into their regular investigations. With any luck, we will soon see fingerprints glowing all over the United States and around the world.
If you’d like to know more about Dr. Liang’s research you can check out his report in the journal Advanced Materials.
Want even more details? You can check out this short video produced by CISRO featuring an interview with Dr. Liang.