Fingermark Enhancement on Metallic Surfaces

  • Laura Daly

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The recovery of latent fingermarks from surfaces is critical in the investigation of a crime scene. It could provide the identity of a victim of the crime or a person of interest to the investigation. The surfaces being examined may comprise of a single or mixture of materials, each requiring a different technique to visualise the latent fingermarks present. When the surface being examined is metal, the inherent properties of the material can make the visualisation more difficult. To improve the visualisation of latent fingermarks on metal surfaces, a better understanding of how fingermarks behave on the surface of a metal is required.

During this project, fingerprint samples were collected on different metal surfaces and enhanced by the techniques recommended for use on this substrate type in the Manual of Fingerprint Development Techniques and Fingermark Visualisation Manual. These techniques were assessed on a larger number of metals than previously seen and showed how the results for each technique would vary across these metal substrates. Insight into the surface interaction between metals and fingermark residues provided by SEM-EPMA and SKP allows for this to be exploited to visualise latent fingermarks on metals.

The ability to create laser ablated nanoparticles in aqueous solutions has allowed their use in latent fingermark enhancement to be investigated for the first time. This study has shown that it is possible to prepare gold nanoparticles by laser ablation and incorporate them in a technique that uses colloidal gold solutions (SMD-II) and show potential as a novel source of gold nanoparticles for latent fingermark enhancement.

The survival of fingerprints on cartridge cases after firing from a handgun or rifle has been proven and shows there is merit in inspecting cartridge cases for latent fingermarks during a forensic examination. The fingermarks survive but it is the ability to capture them that is often not available in a forensic mark enhancement laboratory.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsCentre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST)
SupervisorNiamh Nic Daeid (Supervisor), Rory Downham (Supervisor) & Kenny Laing (Supervisor)

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