Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Collaboration Between Penn Chemist And Secret Service Points The Way To Improved Gathering Of Fingerprints

Date:
February 7, 2001
Source:
University Of Pennsylvania
Summary:
What do you get when you cross an organic chemist with the U.S. Secret Service? In at least one case, such a partnership has resulted in a means of developing fingerprints at crime scenes that’s less damaging to evidence, more sensitive and less expensive for law enforcement agencies.

Philadelphia -- What do you get when you cross an organic chemist with the U.S. Secret Service?

In at least one case, such a partnership has resulted in a means of developing fingerprints at crime scenes that’s less damaging to evidence, more sensitive and less expensive for law enforcement agencies. The class of chemicals the team ultimately fingered, known as indanediones, recently received a U.S. patent, and a European company has obtained a non-exclusive license to the technology.

This unusual crime-fighting alliance was born several years ago when federal agents appeared unannounced at the laboratory of Madeleine M. Joullié, Class of 1970 Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. They thought the organic chemist might be just the answer to modernizing the dusty old art of fingerprinting.

"Often we were speaking entirely different languages," Joullié said of her unlikely detour into work supported by the National Institute of Justice. "I’d go to law-enforcement conferences where nobody else understood me and I didn’t understand anybody else."

Despite the cultural gulf separating them, Joullié and her colleagues in the Secret Service managed a balancing act in more ways than one. Methods used to detect fingerprints must be gentle and sensitive -- the smudge left on a surface by a passing finger contains, on average, just one millionth of a gram of amino acids, fatty acids, glycerides, urea and salts -- and yet inexpensive enough to be dusted on evidence at crime scenes. Indanediones appear to fit the bill better than any of the various fingerprinting compounds now available.

Despite other technological advances in law enforcement, the materials used in this staple of crime-scene investigation have remained remarkably low-tech over the years. While various alternatives exist, the fingerprinting chemical most used by law enforcement agencies the world over is a 1950s-era compound called ninhydrin.

Another fingerprint-finding compound now used by some police departments, diazafluorenone, comes in at roughly $40 a gram, a real budget-buster for most police departments. The indanediones developed by Joullié can be produced for a fraction of that cost via a relatively straightforward, reliable sequence of reactions.

Low cost isn’t indanediones’ only advantage. When combined with the amino acids in a fingerprint, indanediones’ heightened sensitivity causes them to glow even more brightly than the pricey diazafluorenone. Indanediones are also significantly easier to use.

"To avoid thermal decomposition of evidence, diazafluorenone prints must be developed with a carefully timed application of a high-temperature, dry-heat system," Joullié said. "In the case of indanediones, only steam heat in necessary, which does not damage the evidence."

Joullié was joined in the development of indanedione fingerprinting compounds by Diane Hauze and Olga Petrovskaia, both of whom received their doctorates from Penn, and Bruce Taylor, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at Penn. Colleagues at the Secret Service included forensic chemists Anthony Cantu and Robert Ramotowski.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Pennsylvania. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Pennsylvania. "Collaboration Between Penn Chemist And Secret Service Points The Way To Improved Gathering Of Fingerprints." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/02/010206080751.htm>.
University Of Pennsylvania. (2001, February 7). Collaboration Between Penn Chemist And Secret Service Points The Way To Improved Gathering Of Fingerprints. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/02/010206080751.htm
University Of Pennsylvania. "Collaboration Between Penn Chemist And Secret Service Points The Way To Improved Gathering Of Fingerprints." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/02/010206080751.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) — Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) — Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) — Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) — An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins