For more than a century, fingerprints have been crucial to the investigation of crime and are still responsible for more identifications than DNA evidence. Now, a University of Huddersfield researcher is responsible for breakthroughs that will make fingerprinting a more valuable forensic tool than ever. Fraudsters are among the offenders who will be easier to detect, thanks to the work of Dr. Benjamin Jones.

He headed a team that has discovered a technique for taking fingerprints from laser-printed paper and — crucially — detecting whether or not the mark was made before or after it was printed on.

An award-winning article describing the new technique explains that “in cases such as fraud or counterfeiting it can be imperative to know whether a fingerprint has been deposited before or after the paper is printed with compromising material, and therefore be able to assess whether a suspect is associated with the printed evidence.”

In a project that received £170,000 funding from The Leverhulme Trust, Jones and his team discovered that a scientific technique known as secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) — which analyses surfaces at the microscale — can provide a detailed chemical map of the layers on laser-printed paper — including fingerprints — and the order in which they were deposited. This means, for example, that a suspect could no longer claim that he or she had handled a piece of blank paper when simply refilling a photocopier or printer.

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