Glowing jellyfish protein lights the way for better lifting of fingerprints

A new forensic spray under experiment makes latent fingerprints visible in just 10 seconds, and eliminates the need for messy powders.What that do However, integrate is a glowing protein obtained from jellyfish.

Current methods of collecting fingerprints from crime scenes use fine powders or fuming chemical reagents. In both cases, it will take at least a few minutes to obtain a usable printout. Additionally, compounds in powders and reagents can damage the DNA in the sweat and sebum that make up the print.

Scientists at the University of Bath in the UK and Shanghai Normal University in China have devised an alternative in the form of a new non-toxic, water-soluble spray.

There are actually two versions containing two different dyes: LFP-Yellow and LFP-Red. Users choose one or the other depending on the color of the surface they are lifting the print on, so the print really stands out against the background when it becomes visible.

Examples of lifted prints using LFP-Yellow (top) and LFP-Red dyes – LFP is "latent fingerprint"
Examples of prints taken using LFP-Yellow (top) and LFP-Red dyes – LFP stands for “Latent Fingerprint”

University of Bath

Both pigments are derived from a substance produced by jellyfish called green fluorescent protein (GFP). This protein is already widely used in scientific research to visualize biological processes. without it influence those processes. Similarly, it does not affect any DNA that may be present in your fingerprints.

As soon as the spray is applied to a surface, the positively charged dye molecules combine with the negatively charged fat and amino acid molecules found in the sweat and oils in your fingerprints. The dye molecules are “locked in place” along all the obvious swirls and ridges of the print.

When exposed to blue light, these molecules fluoresce yellow or red within 10 seconds. You can use your smartphone’s camera to record images for later reference.

The spray itself is made up of very fine droplets, so even splattered fingerprints won’t physically damage it. It is also effective at removing prints from rough surfaces such as brick, which can be very difficult using traditional techniques. Additionally, these marks can be removed up to a week after they are left by the suspect.

“We hope that this technology can really improve evidence detection at crime scenes,” said lead researcher Professor Chusen Huang of Shanghai Normal University. “We are currently working with several companies to make the dye available for sale. Further work is still in progress.”

This research is described in a recently published paper. Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Source: University of Bath

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