In the future, police may analyze highly detailed, glowing fingerprints instead of dusting a crime scene. A research team in China has developed a process by which fingerprints both old and new are not only more detailed, but could allow authorities to pick up extra evidence, such as drug use.
The new technique, created by lead researcher Bin Su and his team at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, leverages electrochemiluminescence, and we'll give you brownie points if you just pronounced that in your head as you read it.
Electrochemiluminescence, or electrogenerated chemiluminescence (also ECL), happens when an electrochemical is used to produce an emission of light. In this case, a release by the group states:
The researchers use a small glass plate coated with indium tin oxide or just a piece of stainless steel plate as the electrode. A fingerprint is transferred to this plate and then a solution containing the reactants is added. In the places where the fat-containing components of the fingerprint cover the plate, the electrode is inactive; the electrochemical reaction cannot take place, and no light is emitted. This produces a negative image of the fingerprint that can be recorded with a CCD camera.
The result is a fingerprint that is luminescent and so detailed that one can see the ridges, lines and pores in the print. In fact, the same technique with a little modification can be used to create a negative of the print, which could be "a starting point for the development of methods to detect drugs and other substances that the person who made the prints either ingested or came into contact with." Here's a picture demonstrating both:
The process is still undergoing development and the findings were just published in German scientific journal Angewandte Chemie, which means "applied chemistry" in the native tongue.
Image directly above published in Angewandte Chemie.