Volume 46, Issue 4 (July 2001)
Development of Latent Fingerprints on Metallic Surfaces Using Electropolymerization Processes
We propose a new process for developing latent fingerprints on metal items, applicable to unfired weapons made of Ergal in particular. The method is based on the presence of fatty acids that are contained in fingerprints and act as an insulator on the surface where fingerprints are to be developed. The process of polymerization occurs on the metal portions left untouched by finger contact. Hence, the developing process results as a negative pattern of the original fingerprint. The reaction consists in the electropolymerization of pyrrole and substituted porphyrins, i.e., tetra (o-aminophenyl) porphyrine: radical-cations are generated on superficial nucleation sites by oxidation of monomer, close to the electrode surface; subsequently, the radical species react with the neutral monomer, which begins to diffuse to the electrode. We have also studied the polymer's morphology by means of SEM and AFM, in order to find a correlation between the reagent to be used and the quality of the enhancement process. These are only preliminary results; however, they show that the suggested method is a new way to increase the rate of success in developing latent fingerprints on metal surfaces. In this regard, it may be considered complementary to other conventional procedures, due to the low costs of the instruments and reagents, and the rapidity and simplicity of the treatment.