An incredible new technique could allow investigators to determine if a fingerprint belongs to a male or female.
The method is based on the detection of amino acids in the fingerprint, the University at Albany reported. Amino acid levels in female sweat and fingerprints are about twice as high as in males, and the proportions are differently distributed.
To apply this concept to forensics, a team of researchers extracted amino acids from a fingerprint by transferring it onto plastic wrap. They then applied a hydrochloric acid solution and heat, causing the amino acids to migrate into the acidic solution for analysis. The researchers tested their new method on "mimicked fingerprint samples," and found it had a 99 percent accuracy rate in determining whether the sample belonged to a male or female.
To further test their technique, the team asked three different female volunteers to place their fingerprints on five different types of surfaces, including a doorknob and computer screen. They found regardless of the surface, they were able to determine the fingerprints belonged to a female.
"One of the main goals for this project was to move toward looking at the chemical content within the fingerprint, as opposed to relying on simply the fingerprint image," said assistant chemistry professor Jan Halámek. "We do not intend to compete with DNA analysis or the databases used for identification. Instead we are aiming at differentiating between demographic groups, and more importantly, we are aiming at making use of fingerprints that are smudged/distorted or that don't have an existing match."
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Analytical Chemistry.