Electrochemical interactions between latent human fingerprints and metal surfaces in ambient air are investigated using a scanning Kelvin microprobe. Inorganic salts present in sweat deposited at fingerprint ridges locally depassivate the metal surface producing a Volta potential decrease of greater than 200 mV. Volta potential patterns may persist for months and prints may be visualized by potential mapping, even when overcoated with a polymer layer. Because the Volta potential differences are produced by involatile salts they persist when the organic components of the fingerprint residue have been volatilized by heating to 600°C.
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