Fingerprints form a key part of criminal investigations, allowing an investigator to connect a suspect to a crime scene. Modern analytical chemistry however allows more detailed information to be gathered from fingerprints, a process which is being made even easier using the spice tumeric.
By analysing the chemical composition of fingerprints it is possible to find out more about the suspect, for example their sex or if they have recently handled cocaine. Such chemical analyses can be achieved using mass spectrometry, a highly sensitive technique for analysing the molecules present in minute samples such as the material making up fingerprints.
The challenge with using this technique is that the chemical agents commonly used to visualise fingerprints can interfere with analyses. However, a new approach developed by Simona Francese of Sheffield Hallam University using tumeric as the developing agent looks like it may have overcome these interference issues. When fingerprints which have been visualised with tumeric are then analysed by mass spectrometry researchers are still able to determine the presence of various fatty acids and other molecules, including cocaine, in the fingerprints.
A clever new use for an old spice.