31 January 2017

New fingerprint chamber has cold case potential

New fingerprint chamber has cold case potential

Abertay University forensics students will benefit from working with a high-tech new machine capable of retrieving the fingerprints of cold case murder victims.

The University is the only place in Scotland that students can access the specialist Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD) chamber from West Technology, which heats gold and zinc to 1600C, evaporating the metal, which is redeposited as a thin layer on a target surface, delineating any fingerprints.

Similar devices are used by police forces in Scotland, the rest of the UK and as far afield as Canada and Australia and can be used to extract an accurate print from almost any material or object including guns and the new polymer five pound notes.

Abertay students will experience this within practical laboratory sessions on crime scene mark enhancement.

The instrument is part of a raft of new equipment that is being installed in Abertay’s new £3.5 million science labs, which are due to officially open later this year.

Dr Ben Jones, Head of the Division of Science at Abertay, said the VMD has the potential to provide detectives with a finger print from materials that may have been used to conceal a body buried years previously.

He added: “This is all about making sure our students have access to the latest technology and, from a research point of view, expanding on our earlier work with the UK Home Office in understanding of the processes involved at the micro level to further develop the use of the technique.

“Fingerprints are still used more than DNA when it comes to identification so this piece of equipment places our students at the cutting edge of what is available in the industry.”

West Technology ran a two-day training course to show staff and students how to operate the VMD for best results.

The company has also provided a scholarship worth £4,500 for student Paul Sheriffs who will be using the device as part of his PhD research project.

He said: “A big area of research just now centres around the new polymer five pound notes as they are very different from what we had before in terms of being able to extract a print.

“It is great that the University has been able to give me access to this resource.”

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