New Technology Analyzes Fingerprints to Determine Alcohol and Substance Use

TheMerkle Fingerprints Crime Solving

Human fingerprints have proven to be a substantial and reliable source of information. While most people assume these can only be used to identify individuals, the use cases of fingerprints go a lot farther. New research shows how fingerprints can be used to determine one’s sex, alcohol consumption, food ingestion, and drug use. This is a revolutionary development, especially considering it works with prints that are decades old.

Your Fingerprints are a Diary of Sorts

It is rather uncanny to think of fingerprints as a store of information that goes beyond just our DNA. Surprisingly enough, our prints contain a lot more information about ourselves than we might prefer. New technology developed by the Sheffield Hallam University examined decades-old fingerprints and derived a lot of sensitive information from them. A lot of people will not be too happy about this research, yet it shows why technology is often an ally when it comes to solving crimes.

Unlike other types of evidence, fingerprints do not “disappear” by any stretch of the imagination. As long as samples are stored properly, they can be used for further analysis years or even decades later. That is exactly what happened in this case. Scientists were able to determine whether or not individuals were male or female, as well as detect their alcohol and substance use. Oddly, this included the use of hair gel and even condoms, mind you, which is somewhat invasive when you think about it.

Although this new technology is not ready to be used in ongoing police investigations just yet, it will be in a matter of mere months. This will undoubtedly be extremely useful in taking a new look at so-called cold cases, which often remain unsolved for many years. To that end, researchers developed this technology together with the West Yorkshire police. It is not an inexpensive venture by any means, but the potential benefits clearly outweigh any cost associated with this new technology.

Under the hood, the technology is capable of finding traces of substances on or within the ridges of a fingerprint. Every sample is carefully vaporized and fired through an electric and magnetic field. This field resides in a vacuum, preventing any external factors from causing false positives. Every type of article looked at during the analytical process will stand out in a specific manner. All things considered, this is a rather interesting way to conduct police investigations, to say the very least.

Some people may wonder how a fingerprint can be used to successfully determine one’s sex, even if the individual in question is not in a criminal database. This is mainly due to sex-specific proteins found in every fingerprint. These proteins contain molecules from within one’s body. This means the new analytical tool can be used to retrieve a lot of information from one single fingerprint. Whether or not it will be used in any major capacity remains to be seen, for now.

Looking toward the future, this research carries a lot of weight. It is good to see researchers coming up with new ways to use the evidence available to them and turn it into something that can be used for so much more. Although this measure is both expensive and somewhat invasive, there is a bright future ahead for the world of fingerprint analysis. A total of £80,000 has been invested in this project already, which is a pretty solid amount.

Publication date: 
10/11/2017 - 21:00