London: In what could change the face of
forensics forever, scientists in Scotland have developed a new
technique which they claim could lift fingerprints from cloth
and household fabrics such as curtains and couches.
In the past, forensic officers have only been able to
take fingerprints from solid objects. But, the new technique
means that full sets of prints can now be taken from clothing
and fabrics, `The Scotsman` reported.
The ground-breaking research was carried out by the
University of Abertay and Scottish Police Services Authority
Paul Deacon, fingerprint unit manager at the SPSA,
said: "This is cutting-edge research which will increase the
type of cases we can look at. There`s now virtually no smooth
surface we don`t have some chance of finding a print on. This
is just the tip of the iceberg."
A piece of fabric is put into a vacuum chamber and a
fine layer of gold is spread over it. Zinc is then added which
sticks to the gold but not where there are ridges or remains
of a fingerprint.
The fabric then looks like a photographic negative
where the fabric appears grey except for the fingerprint.
The scientists used one of two existing machines
in Scotland which have been effective for decades in getting
prints off smooth, solid objects. The machine, using vacuum
metal deposition (VMD), was originally used to make car lamps.
This is the first time its use has been expanded to
reliably get prints from fabric. The research found fabrics
with thread counts of more than three per millimetre, such as
silk or nylon, were best for catching a full print.
Prof David Bremner, forensic science research leader
at the University of Abertay Dundee and another author on the
recent report in Forensic Science International, said: "This
research is very exciting, showing a huge amount of progress
in the development of the technique.
"By proving that fingerprinting from fabrics is
possible, this should help future criminal investigations and
the apprehension of perpetrators."
However, the scientists cautioned that their work
could not solve all cases. But they said the science could
eventually be used in an average of one major case each week.