Fingerprint Detection Using Lasers
A Breakthrough in Chemical Technology: Fingerprint Detection Using Lasers
For years, fingerprint detection has been a critical identification technique, particularly when considering its usefulness in crime scene investigations.
In 1976, James Duff and Roland Menzel of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada, along with Brian Dalrymple of the Ontario Provincial Police, discovered that fingerprints could be detected using a specific type of laser. A first in this type of technology, the work done by the trio allowed a normally undetectable fingerprint impression to be seen with the naked eye.
Upon contact with a given surface, the finger leaves behind certain chemicals within the fingerprint that, when struck with the rays of an argon ion laser, will illuminate, or fluoresce.
The effectiveness of this technique was first demonstrated in the successful conclusion of a narcotics case, inspiring the RCMP, FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and Scotland Yard to use the argon ion laser in their criminal investigations as well.
The invention by Duff, Menzel and Dalrymple led to many other advancements in forensic science, including
fibre analysis, body fluid visualization, and fluorescent DNA labelling. The work of these three Canadian men
drastically changed the world of fingerprint detection, ultimately leading to the crime scene investigation
tools that are used today.