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Proceedings Paper

Chemical characterization of fingerprints from adults and children
Author(s): Michelle V. Buchanan; Keiji Asano; Arthur Bohanon
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Paper Abstract

The observation that the fingerprints of children disappear from surfaces more quickly than those of adults initiated a study to characterize the chemical components in fingerprints. Samples were obtained from about 50 individuals ranging in age from three to 64 by extracting chemicals from the fintertips using rubbing alcohol. Using combined gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, a wide range of compounds were identified. It was found that the chemical compositions of fingerprints were quite different in children and adults. In general, the samples obtained from children contained higher levels of relatively volatile free fatty acids. Samples from adults were found to have higher concentrations of less volatile long chain esters of fatty acids. These esters are thought to originate from sebaceous glands located on the face and the levels of these compounds increase substantially after puberty. In addition to these compounds, a variety of other compounds were observed that could be used to develop improved methods for fingerprint detection at a crime scene. Further, the observation of specific compounds raises the possibility of being able to identify personal traits (gender, habits, diseases, etc.) via the analysis of components in fingerprints and/or skin.

Paper Details

Date Published: 10 February 1997
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 2941, Forensic Evidence Analysis and Crime Scene Investigation, (10 February 1997); doi: 10.1117/12.266300
Show Author Affiliations
Michelle V. Buchanan, Oak Ridge National Lab. (United States)
Keiji Asano, Oak Ridge National Lab. (United States)
Arthur Bohanon, Knoxville Police Dept. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2941:
Forensic Evidence Analysis and Crime Scene Investigation
John Hicks; Peter R. De Forest; Vivian M. Baylor, Editor(s)

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